With the entrance of sin into the world and into our hearts, we have gained some remarkable (and remarkably sad) abilities. One of those newfound abilities is the capacity to lose our wonder, to grow cold to even the most beautiful things. Things that once inspired us, that once moved us, that caused us to marvel or to cry out in praise—even these things can grow stale over time; even these things can become old. One of the great joys and great promises of eternity is that in heaven we will never lose our wonder but will, to the contrary, enjoy ever-increasing wonder and ever-increasing joy. What moves us today will move us even more tomorrow and what causes us to marvel tomorrow will bring even greater wonder in the future. C.S. Lewis captures just a little bit of this in the closing sentences of his Narnia chronicles:
And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
“Every chapter is better than the one before.” If only that were true here and now. It should be, but it is not.
Just recently I realized that I had somehow lost much of the joy in one of life’s great pleasures.
I have had the experience a few times. I have walked into a building—a church or a school or a community center where a group of Christians meets—and I have heard distant singing. I’ve gone to investigate, walking quietly toward the sound, trying to track it down. And as I wandered the halls, I eventually found a gathering of Christians, expressing praise to God through song.
What continues to fascinate me is that as I got closer to the source of the singing, I began to hear distinct voices. When I in the middle of that group, I could begin to make out this person’s tenor and that person’s alto. I could hear that this man was singing melody and that woman was singing the matching harmony. That song was made up of many voices and many parts, each person contributing his or her part to the whole.
But then I would step back again, I would walk a little bit further away, and as I heard that praise from afar, it was as if one voice was crying out in praise to God.
And it was this corporate dimension to singing, this one voice, that I neglected. So much of the beauty of singing praises to God is experiencing a hundred people, or a thousand people, praising God all together in one voice. There is much we do as individuals in the corporate worship services, but there is also this dimension of gathering as a group, as a body, as a single spiritual organism. Singing is something we do together. We sing to encourage one another, we sing to teach and admonish one another, but ultimately, we sing so we can praise God together, as God’s people. Many individuals, but one people with one voice. It’s a beautiful, wondrous thing.