I have a memory of standing next to my grandmother in church and hearing her sing. She didn’t have an especially pleasant voice, but I found comfort in the sound. (To this day, I am more apt to sing out loud in corporate worship if someone nearby is singing imperfect and loud.) There are several phrases from old hymns that bring the image of her right into my mind. It gives me a special affinity for hymns.
I’ve been thinking about both hymns and her lately, and wondered if it’s because I’m aging. Older generations seem to prefer hymns, and I used to assume that when you aged, you returned to the songs you first experienced with God. Sort of rekindling the fire of first love. I remember my parents commenting that they missed the old songs and didn’t care for “second service music” anymore.
Theology in the Raw, a podcast I favor had an episode about worship and they discussed “objective” versus “subjective” worship songs. I now think a preference for hymns has more to do with the way older songs were written.
Oversimplified: Objective is unchangeable truths about God and subjective is how the singer feels about those truths (which fluctuates.)
And the older I get, the more I want to cling to things which do not change rather than grasp the wind of emotions and bandwagons.
I think this is a reason I rarely sing in church. If most of the lyrics are about me, and how I feel—then I get distracted if it isn’t specifically how I feel. Even if it’s how I want to feel, I get bored singing about myself. Of course, if it’s exactly how you feel then it’s powerful.
The Mere Worship podcast I mentioned said if people don’t want to sing a lie, they remain silent. I guess that’s when the worshiptainment leader works and everyone else watches.
This really hit home for me today when I read the passage in Matthew 11:1-6. John the Baptist sends a message from prison to ask if Jesus was the one. In John’s moment of doubt, it always seemed cold to me that Christ did not comfort him with the particular encouragement we usually give and expect. Like, “No worries—I’m the guy.”
Instead, Christ said “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor…”
What you see:
Christ replied with an objective truth. Look at the fruit you can see…that is an answer. Heather Thompson Day writes in It’s Not Your Turn, “For just a moment. I want you to step back from everything you feel so your brain can make room for what you see.”
Even more interesting is the declaration from verse 14 that John the Baptist was Elijah. Elijah the prophet seemed to be a somewhat volatile, emotional man. He was capable of intense faith (1 Kings 18) but fell quickly into depression (1 Kings 19.) If he returned as John, don’t you think it fits his character perfectly that he spiraled a bit in prison?
So my takeaway—if you feel prone to volatility, emotion or depression in your walk with God—cling to objective truth more than how you feel about it.