Early in the morning when the house is still and we are quietly preparing ourselves for the day I may ask Kathleen or she may ask me, “What’s your song?”
I can’t remember a time when each of us did not have an answer. Usually it’s a hymn or gospel song. After all, didn’t the Apostle Paul exhort: “Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord”? (Ephesians 3:19). That’s silent singing.
The practice works anywhere. This morning, while it was still dark I was out on my 30-minute walk. All the way, in my mind I sang that great Charles Wesley hymn, “Arise my soul, arise,/ Shake off thy guilty fears./ The bleeding sacrifice,/ in my behalf appears./ Before the throne my surety stands,/ My name is written on his hands.”
I was singing silently, but more; I was feasting on the meaning of the words, and being awakened to joy! “Those biblical words, arranged in lyrical cadences, are the kind to awaken all of us when we get a bit spiritually drowsy. Such silent singing can bring back to us the wonder of our faith.
Charles Wesley knew about the guilty fears he wrestled with as he approached his moment of saving faith on May 21, 1738. In that moment he had come alive to the truth that one’s hope for eternal salvation is not ever in oneself or one’s rituals. It is in Calvary – “the bleeding sacrifice on our behalf appears.”
Singing the gospel is not a new thing with Kathleen and me. When we were married and for several years thereafter we sang duets together. Her voice is still sweet and mellow 64 years later but my singing voice has lost its edge. Even so, I can still sing inside my head as I do much of the time.
We were both brought up in churches that had no instrumental accompaniment. In one sense this was an asset. The congregation I grew up in loved to sing and the singing was robust, in four parts. The Baptist minister in our Saskatchewan town told us that he loved to come to our church once a year in a pulpit exchange just to hear our congregation sing.
And back then, singing was even incorporated into our family prayers. In our home, the family ritual was: after the evening meal, read a chapter from the Bible, sing one of several hymns we knew by heart, kneel down together in the kitchen to pray and end by saying the Lord’s Prayer together. No wonder we both have tunes in our heads much of the time.
The reason we carry on this exercise of silent singing nearly all the time at our house is not that we live a “blue sky” existence. As with all other believers, there are clouds — disappointments to face, heartaches to heal and moral perplexities in life to resolve. We know a devil still rages against God’s people.
But we are kept on tune by hope – the Christian’s anchor point.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
That promise is enough to make a believer sing at least silently – whether in a crowded bus, on the way to work, or in a high school chemistry lab, or while hoeing potatoes, or waiting for worship to begin. Silent singing can be a hope-renewing exercise anywhere.