Amazing how just a few notes on the piano at church can move a big ol gal like me to a whole different place. Just like being picked up and before I know it, there I am, twelve and sassy mouthed, standing next to Grannycakes who sings louder than anyone else in that cavernous chapel with the peeling light blue paint and the plain wooden cross that has a simple purple scarf draped round its arms as it stands so tall and quiet and loud up on there on the back wall.
The piano now is a shiny black baby grand, but the one back then was old. Towering and brown in all its Southern Baptistness, a little out of tune and twangy as its hymns bounced off the unfinished wood floors that were half covered in indoor/outdoor carpet, blue to match the walls.
The light switches were those push-button kind, rectangular panels of little circles that I loved to push –mash as my grandparents would say- and listen to the clunk and see what hanging light would go off with my mashing.
I stand amazed.
But really, not so much.
Not when I’m twelve and I think my grandma sings horribly and I pretty much hate being there but I love her enough to go when she asks the night before with a twinkle in her eye.
My granddad speaks that morning, -little churches can never keep a preacher it seems- and he cries and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard that and doesn’t it just tear up the heart of a female to hear a grown man cry?
And then that big cross.
Not much else to look at as the piano plunks and the ten or so people try to follow along but all their ears can hear is the short little lady from the South in the second row singing her out-of-tune heart all-out to Jesus with every four feet and eleven inches of her while her chubby and pimply granddaughter stands awkwardly by and attempts to not look like she’s singing while she’s singing enough to not look sullen.
It’s hard to look cool when you don’t feel cool.
It’s hard to blend in when you’re standing next to someone whose voice is filling the whole sky.
So when the preacher sings I Stand Amazed and it’s five-thousand miles and thirty years later and you don’t worry so much about looking cool anymore and neither do the kids next to you because they’re cooler than you ever were and don’t care if they’re not, I’m carried to the robin’s egg blue and that simple wooden cross and I can almost hear her through the tears that surprise me because really, it is pretty marvelous, isn’t it?
Pretty marvelous that the pimply little girl who didn’t know what it all meant but thought she knew it all, well, she eventually learned, and now she knows she doesn’t know it all, but she doesn’t pretend to anymore either.
Pretty marvelous that in her not knowing, she came to know what she needed to know to teach her children what they’ll need to know.
Pretty marvelous that as they’re all learning what they know…and following what they know…and teaching what they know…they can be with others who are doing the same.
Those ones who sing loud and proud like Grannycakes.
Those ones who are shy and awkward and still searching.
Those ones who stand tall with every inch of themselves and try to sing it true even if it is a little off-key.
Those ones who are like children still and are pimply in their faith.
Those ones who have bodies that ail and won’t be with us for too many more years.
Those ones who grieve and mourn and can only manage tears around their choked out words.
Those ones who forget things now, names and places and people, but they always remember why they’re singing.
Those ones who sing all-out to the One who gave out His all…
…and isn’t it marvelous?
I’d give every penny I have to hear her sing again.
But some days…
…if I listen hard enough…
…and if the song is just Baptisty enough…
…and if my heart is just soft enough…
I can almost hear her.
And in almost hearing, I can see that paint and those lights and the tall walnut pews and the quietly loud cross and all those the people who aren’t cool but who cry…
…and even though it wasn’t perfect and even though there was pain and even though it was a long and bumpy road to find what I now know…
…I’m standing in the presence and it reminds me that one marvelous day, her and I, and all of us here who know just how marvelous it is, well, we’ll all stand there.
We’ll be amazed.
And we’ll sing.
I Stand Amazed