We were just starting to sing an upbeat contemporary Christian song when Madonna, who was standing beside me, began to belt out in a high-pitched voice you would expect from a 60-year old woman. She was about 40. Her voice rose above everyone else’s in our corner. A lady on the row in front of us slightly turned her head towards our direction as if trying to find the source of this shrill and shaky soprano.
The worship leader’s powerful voice and adept guitar playing continued to stir the congregation. I was getting into the spirit too, but Madonna, without her meaning to, continued to distract me. With eyes closed, hands raised and body swaying, she seemed lost in worship, without a care in the world. I knew this person to be genuinely passionate for the Lord.
Every so often, I would close my eyes to help me focus, but with little success. I tried to be worshipful, but when Madonna started to do sign language and sing at the same time, I slipped farther away. Is anyone deaf around here? Madonna was not only swaying; her arms were flinging all over the place.
This is not good, I told myself. The lady was obviously enjoying worship time, singing to the Master, who am I to judge her voice or manner of singing? It’s my own heart I should be concerned about.
With a bit more compassion, I tried to think of something positive about what was going on beside me. From the corner of my eye, I began to “read” her hand motions along with the song. It then became more bearable and rather interesting. Don’t be too quick to criticize. You’ll never know if you’ll ever need to learn sign language, I thought to myself.
Why did she learn sign language? Who is she using it for? Is one of her children hearing-impaired? Or could it be her husband? Or a parent? Does she minister to a group of deaf people at a church or school somewhere? I wondered.
I began to imagine where Madonna could be coming from. Maybe she did sign language for someone so frequently that it became her natural thing to do even as she sang. Maybe she had to keep on practicing it. Maybe… I thought of different scenarios. When I pictured Madonna guiding others and especially her own child “sing” with their hands, my heart began to melt. I put myself in those deaf people’s shoes, then in Madonna’s shoes. She might be carrying a burden I knew nothing about. I was choked to tears. I wanted to cry.
Madonna was clueless of what was going on in my head. She was still lost in worship, arms flinging all over the place. I felt I had just fallen flat on my face.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship… we sang on the fifth song. And it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus…I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, For it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
This song by Matt Redman felt like a brick on my head, but it did bring me back to the heart of worship.