Awhile back I was playing my guitar with some scholars asking what songs they wanted to sing and someone said they wanted to sing the “bologna” song. We were talking about songs we sing during community worship and I was pretty confident we were not singing songs about slimy lunch meat. Several kids affirmed that they too loved the “bologna” song and I was going crazy trying to figure out what on earth they were talking about. Finally one of them offered to sing it. And so with confidence they belted out the words, “Above and bologna, before and behind me, in every eye that sees me Christ be all around me.” I died.
The actual lyrics say “above and below me” yet somehow they, with great passion and conviction, had been belting out nonsensical lyrics about arguably the least spiritual lunch meat there is.
So I started listening more closely to the words they were actually singing in other songs. And this wasn’t the only place they were so incredibly far off. They were singing “sin had left a Christmas stain” instead of “sin had left a crimson stain” and maybe the most humorous of all is “go on a tell it to the mouses” instead of “go on and tell it to the masses.” Unknowingly we’ve produced some of the best mouse evangelists this side of the Mississippi.
This mix up in lyrics is common, in fact they are called mondegreens. We all know those people who so confidently and unashamedly sing the wrong lyrics. Psychologists have studied this phenomenon and have come to two really different conclusions about why it happens. Some say your brain picks the easiest route. Crimson and masses are words most five year olds don’t use regularly so they pick a more familiar word. Others say you hear what you want to hear. But beyond the psychology of missung lyrics is something I’m far more fascinated by. I’ve never once heard a mondegreen mumbled. They are more often than not sung with confidence and passion.
This is convicting.
The UCA scholars are not singing their hearts out about bologna. They are singing to a God who they want to be near. They don’t know the right words or the perfect prayers but they have hearts that are eager. And they feel the energy of telling the Good News of Jesus and they want to join in the grand song of being a part of God’s bigger story and sure the lyrics are messed up but the heart of the matter is unchanged.
There are lots of big things coming up at UCA. We’re growing and that growth is taking us to deeper and scary waters. If I’m honest I’ve been too afraid to join in the proverbial song God is singing over our school. I’ve insisted on sitting back, trying to memorize the right words, too afraid to join in and sing. The scholars have challenged me to just sing. When the words get jumbled grace will abound because it’s not simply about the words but the heart.
Joshua prayed this wildly audacious prayer when he needed more time in battle, “SUN STAND STILL.” From a scientific perspective that’s a silly prayer. The sun is still. It’s the earth that orbits the sun, so the prayer he should have prayed to get the result he wanted was “earth stand still.” But God didn’t care if the words were right, He knew exactly what Joshua was asking for, more daylight...and more daylight is exactly what God gave.
I’ve written the words “just do something” in my journal more times than I am proud to admit. At first it felt like the fierce battle cry of my heart. In reality all along it has been my soul’s plea to my mind. A plea to break free from the constructs of fear my mind so stubbornly tries to stuff it into.
Kids are afraid of a lot of things, but being wrong isn’t usually one of them.
They give us coloring sheets that are scribble scrabble, colors wildly spewed way beyond what is forgivable from the black lines that make up the Disney princess or zoo animal printed on the page. They dance with reckless abandon, two left feet and all. And we clap wildly at the end of their awkward performances not because they nailed every step perfectly but because they dared to dance. We hang scribbles up like works of fine art, not because they are highly sought after collectors’ pieces but because we see the passion in each stoke of the crayon.
And I wonder if God is just the same. I wonder if He’s not asking us to dance like the stars or paint like Monet or sing all the right words. Maybe He’s just longing for us to dance with reckless abandon and color expressively without worrying about the lines and sing with passion regardless of how well we know the words. Because maybe it’s not the product that matters the most, maybe the thing that matters most is simply just doing something.