The term schadenfreude refers to a feeling of enjoyment from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people. That's not why I'm writing about.
But, as I read in a book once and have referenced on this blog before, there are times when things happen to people that are for them to learn from. And then there are the times things happen, little or big, that are for someone else to learn from. Someone like me.
Where am I going with this? Following today's Christmas service at church, I'd like to compose a brief letter of sorts, an ode to the inconsequential that was, indeed, not so inconsequential after all. And so, I say a heartfelt thanks...
...to the worship team who somehow managed to sing lyrics to three different Christmas carols that had slightly different words in many places than the words up on the screen. You didn't even know, at least during the first service. But after my initial confusion and trying to figure out what you were singing and why things weren't congruent, I realized it didn't really matter. Everything you were singing was truth. If I didn't know the right words, I could be still and sink it all in instead of huff and puff my out-of-breath self to try to keep up.
...to the little boy with the big solo, the one who belted out his words with angelic innocence, then proceeded to enthusiastically wave to family and friends, call out "Hi Andrew!" (whoever he is) and hop all around: thank you for your exuberance. This is the great thing about kids; little ones. They forget to be embarrassed. They forget to be cool or collected or follow all of the social rules. They show joy unabashedly. They sing with all of their hearts, even if they're out of tune.
...to the woman with the magnificent voice who had several solos, thanks for singing through what was probably a cold or sinus trouble or a strained voice. Sometimes the less polished, the more beautiful we are. If I want perfection, I'll pay to see it. What I heard was beautiful. It helped soften the slight sting of a back-handed compliment from a fellow church member not long ago. She said something about being moved by my voice even if it wasn't perfect. I didn't need anyone to tell me it wasn't, and I knew where her heart was, but sometimes it helps to see someone else singing in all of their earnest, glorious imperfection to understand a little better.
...and to the quartet of instrumentalists who played so sweetly and beautifully but had to start the last song entirely over because one of you began playing the wrong song: I empathized with you, but also felt a measure of gratefulness. You see, I am the type of person who over-analyzes my mistakes. I've been known to recall simple exchanges I've had with a person and replay over and over the dumb thing I said; the lame remark that could have been replaced with something much more clever; the comeback that wasn't one. It's no different when I am the one up on stage. I am not as bad at this as I used to be. I no longer feel paralyzed by my mistakes. But there are still times when I think, Why did I? Why didn't I? If'only I'd...
What you all wouldn't know is that last week was my last week to sing with my team before having the baby. And our team leader decided to, as a "goodbye present" of sorts, have me lead one of my favorite songs ever ("Everything" by Lifehouse). We haven't done this song in forever at church. The last thing I wanted to do was muck it up. Yet the first time around all of us in the band did just that. And then I was so sure I could fix things for the second try (we only had two services that day due to snow). This would be my last time singing in who knows when. I'd talked to people about when to play and where to go in the song. I was ready. I was sure of myself...and then I proceeded to get so lost in enjoying and singing the song that I completely missed where I was supposed to go. And it was another one of those things that the average person wouldn't have even noticed all that much or cared about, but it bugged me, because again it reminded me of the way I can be an airhead and not always hit the notes just right and do something dumb despite my best efforts and yes, be human.
And so, to the little guy and one on guitar and the woman and her voice and the singers with the not-quite perfect words, again, I say thank you for providing me again with a much needed gift: perspective. What I didn't completely learn after my mad dash to the advent candle three weeks ago, I'm continuing to learn now.
What is the point of Christmas if we've already reached perfection?
Is church the place for the perfectly coiffed or for those in desperate need, those in realization of their lack?
I can believe that there is still beauty in glorious imperfection. God obviously thought that way, when He looked at us. And when I do that, I can see the miracle in the midst of the mundane. I can sing here to myself in my voice that really could have better range, that would never have made it far on American Idol or The Voice or anywhere but with my own church family, sing those words to my favorite song:
How can I
stand here with you
and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me
how can it be
any better than this?