Thursday, November 03, 2016

Deep and Wide

One of the greatest stories my family enjoys sharing of my childhood would be the epic children’s musical presentation of which I debuted my true colors. No, I did not take the lead in a solo. No, I did not pull my frilly church dress up over my head. No, I didn’t wave at my parents or adoring grandparents from stage. All of those behaviors are too common for a church girl singing on stage with all of her fashionably dressed peers. I exhibited leadership and protest to questionable authority in a profound and incriminating way. I found injustice and lack of consistency and spoke truth to an ignorant body. I looked the ruling figure square in the eye and rebuked their decision for it was causing a disturbance in my soul and I could not stand back and let such disorder and chaos ensue.

I was four.

A classic children’s church song that expounds upon the endlessness of God’s love for us is “Deep and Wide”. Do you not know it? That is telling of where you are in church or where you are in your walk. Not judging. Trust me. It is just telling. For those of us who did grow up in a traditional, Bible-thumping, sunrise service observing, fall festival (NOT HALLOWEEN) hosting, watered down VBS kool-aid drinking, Just As I Am Southern Baptist church, let us sing together and introduce this song to our friends.

Deep and Wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and wide

Deep and wide,
Deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and wide.

Catchy, right? It gets better. For memorization mastery and awareness of proper singing position, children’s choir directors would conduct this masterpiece by singing it through one time followed by at least two, and sometimes three, additional times with missing words. Where the words should be in the song, the children’s choir was instructed to hum the word with your mouth properly formed encapsulating the egg with lips closed. You choir people know the position.

Deep and *HUM*,
Deep and *HUM*,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and *HUM*.

Deep and *HUM*,
Deep and *HUM*,
There’s a fountain flowing
Deep and *HUM*.

Amazing! The next round would find the voices substituting the word DEEP with a *HUM* and returning the word WIDE to the song. If the choir director felt a little Holy Spirit coming onto the sanctuary, we would go one last time with both words, DEEP and WIDE, being substituted with *HUM*. That’s right.

*HUM* and *HUM*

But wait! I forgot yet another part that makes this song just a step out of the traditional church worship setting. IT HAD MOTIONS. I know, right. You see Aunt Edna getting out her church pew fan right now for fear that she might faint because there was a form of dancing occurring in the worship service. Beads of sweat were forming on Deacon Roberson as he knew he might have to come up to the stage and carry out of the sanctuary the child on the back row that was bending his knees just a little too much for comfort. Yet, we did it anyway. For Deep, the hands expanded the floor to ceiling direction creating an invisible box. For Wide, the hands expanded the left and right, once again as if holding an invisible box. The left and right was always fun because someone always got struck with the aggressive worshipper seeking to prove a point about the expanse of God’s love from East to West.

The small section of the song that differed somewhat had it’s own little cute choreography. “There’s a fountain flowing” engaged the chorus to take their hands and make them into little fists and roll the fists as an extension of their 90 degree bent forearm over and over each other very similar to the also popular “Patty Cake” motion of “roll ‘em up, roll ‘em up”. Are you seeing it? There was much practiced involved for this production. You see, there was great concern for all of the choir members as to whether we were to roll our arms forward, away from the body, or backward, towards the body. Such stress for little ones.

Now, you have the song and the visual of how the song was to unfold. Let us return to the performance.

The small children’s choir of 15 or so preschoolers have taken the stage. The sanctuary was full because it was VBS Commencement. If you do not know what Commencement is, your welcome. Another day. This is the day of VHS recording cameras that were the size of the ones used by the newscast and the sanctuary was saturated with them as proud parents and grandparents were here to watch their babies sing ONE, maybe TWO songs of the same length of the above described song. It was epic.

Preschoolers get to go first in the production for many reasons.

They are the youngest, so you must go in order some way. Why not start with the youngest.
They have the shortest attention span, so making them go last would be disastrous.
They are the cutest, so they hook the crowd into watching the rest of the performances that may or may not be as adorable. (see first paragraph about waving and pulling dresses up over faces)
After they perform, they can be released to their parents and no longer the responsibility of the choir director.

We took the stage and I was front and center. Aren’t you special, you might say. I am. I was loud, and at this age, they just want you to make some noise. I knew the words and the motions, so I would actually perform correctly instead of fooling with my dress. AND last, but not least, I had family in charge of this production.

We sing through the first round of Deep and Wide and I did my part to keep us afloat. I was proud and poised to go through the next round with the implementation of the necessary and strategic humming. I giggled even to myself knowing that we would be so cute and all of these little old ladies would cackle and whisper to their husbands, “awe, look at that George. Aren’t they precious?”

And then it happened. The chaos and absence of order flooded over me. I felt pale and almost nauseated. Things were spinning out of control and I had to stop it before people were led astray. I had to speak up about the error of our ways. I began to sweat and the emotions came over me in a flash…so quickly that the room was almost spinning.

“NO!” I shouted at the choir director. “NO, that is not right!”

The choir director looked at me stunned and continued to try to direct the rest of the choir through the song by ignoring my protests. The choir director also looked at me as if I had lost my mind and that I would pay for this vocal outburst. I didn’t care. I saw an injustice and I was flooded with the severity of the need to right this wrong.


“You are dong it all wrong! We go, ‘deep and *hum*’ first NOT ‘*hum* and wide’ first.”

The choir director then makes a desperate glance over her shoulder to see if the parents of this unruly child would respond. The choir director was now sweating, also. The choir director was under the impression of “the show must go on” so regardless if we messed up the order of the song, we must keep singing and the choir must follow the director. My four year old little mind had not been introduced to that concept yet. I did not have that stage poise. I was just determined to fix the problem that was presented to my face.

Tears welled up in my little eyes and screaming began because there was not a correction being made to this horrible error. I, front and center, for all the church to see, was speaking the truth of the great depth and width of God’s love and I knew that order was important, but we are not sticking to the order that had been practiced day after day after day. My heart could not contain my disappointment and I wanted to fix it immediately.

“Richard, come and get her right now!” said the choir director through clenched teeth and slightly controlled anger.

The crowd was uncontrollable with laughter, but I was oblivious to it as I was filled with my own anger that such a travesty could happen.

As I saw my father walking up to the stage from the back of the sanctuary (where he sat because he was our sound man), I cried harder and started dancing in place because I knew that this was not going to end well for me. I was so torn because I was upset this injustice had occurred and yet I was going to be beaten for speaking my mind.

My father scooped me up off the stage and continued to loop the sanctuary carrying me out kicking and screaming. I do not know how the rest of the VBS commencement service went. I was banished from the ceremony as I had embarrassed my family with my outburst.

Was I tactful in my protest? No.

Was I timely in my protest? No.

Did I get my point across? Absolutely. Yet, not in a way that was impactful for the good.

Do people still remember my behavior to this day? I am reminded of this memory by church members I grew up with almost every time I go home.

Did I change the world for the better? No. Absolutely not.

Timing and truth. Truth must not be compromised. EVER. However, timing is Jesus. ALWAYS.

Remember that when you are trying to get your point across.

By the way, the choir director…she was my mother.