I Sing Because I’m Happy
Mark Johanson - August 9, 2022
Picture this situation: you’re in your car, sitting at a red light, singing your heart out along with your favorite song on the radio. Out of the corner of your eye, the person next to you in traffic is staring at you. You know what they’re thinking, and in an instant your face is red and you stare straight ahead, praying the light turns green as soon as possible.
Twenty years ago, the well-known reality/competition television show American Idol debuted. I have fond memories of watching this show with my family, watching the terrible singers who would be berated by Simon Cowell and the other judges for being off-key or off-tempo. Twenty years have gone by, and the only thing I really remember from that show was how awful some of those singers were.
Why is it that, in our culture, we are accustomed to humiliation and embarrassment if our singing sounds awful? Is it the careful manipulation of television executives, in the case of American Idol? Is it just ordinary bullying, in the case of the red light?
Singing—or any music creation, for that matter—can create memories in ways which words fail. A great example is the well-known Empire Carpet phone number: 800-588-2300… Empire! (Admit it—you just sang that to yourself.) As Christians, music amplifies the Word and allows for greater expression of our faith. It fosters more fulfilling worship. It comforts in difficult times. It encourages memorization. But in order to accomplish these feats, we actually have to sing, and when we shy away from singing for fear of humiliation or embarrassment, we misunderstand the purpose of singing in the context of the life of a Christian.
Choirs and similar ensembles are great environments for those who enjoy singing with others. Of course, there is a time and a place for rehearsed and coordinated ensemble music that extends beyond the scope of what is appropriate for congregational singing. If you’ve never been in one and you enjoy singing, it’s a thrilling experience unlike any other, even for those with no formal music training. Christ Lutheran has a number of opportunities for music-making, and I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you further about seeing how you could be involved.
But if you’re not enthusiastic about joining a choir, I encourage you to not shy away from singing in worship, singing to your children or grandchildren, or singing in your car—even if the person next to you gives you a look. And by the way, if anyone ever gives you flack about singing praises to God, your response shouldn’t be the American Idol walk of shame; rather, consider crafting your response based on Civilla D. Martin’s hymn, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”:
“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free…”
-Mark W. Johanson
Minister of Music & Worship