Have you ever walked around the house, singing away, and suddenly wondered what it was that you’d been singing? I have. Because every now and again the words of a song can come to life, and it’s like I’d never understood them before. Only then do I realise what it was that I was singing.

Of course, the problem with me, is that I’ve never really been interested in the words themselves—only the overall sound of the music. As a consequence, I’ve always preferred to immerse myself in the multiple layers of my favourite music, without too much concern for the precise meaning of the lyrics.

Nevertheless, the reality is that writers of music, often have something in mind when they write the music and the lyrics. And sometimes that meaning is explicit, and other times it is not that clear. Therefore, it can take a while for the meaning to filter through.

Singing your favourite songs, then, or even singing along to a catchy tune, can be a bit of a worry. Particularly at those times when you pull yourself up, and wonder about the meaning behind it all.

Of course, one of the solutions is that we could stop singing altogether. But then isn’t singing one of the gifts that God has given us? Another solution would be to sing only Christian music.

But herein lies another dilemma. Because if you study the words to some of the hymns, choruses, etc., you could equally pull yourself up and say, “What is it that I am singing?”

Indeed, there have been several times in recent years that I have simply stopped singing in church. And the reason? Because the words seem to be at odds with the Christian faith. Where the sentiments in the songs came from, I don’t know, but they certainly didn’t gel with my understanding of the Bible. Therefore, I’ve often found myself wondering, “Who picked these songs?” But then I’ve remembered the old trap for picking hymns—picking the tunes that people know or can easily sing, rather the words that are set to the tune.

Singing songs, then—secular or religious—can be a very precarious thing to do. And it certainly raises the need to be aware of, “What exactly are we listening to?” when we watch the television, listen to the radio, and put on a CD. But we also need to keep an eye on the music that we sing in church. Otherwise someday we will catch ourselves singing a favourite hymn or chorus, in church or at home, and ask ourselves, “What it is that we’ve been singing?”

Posted: 16th April 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis