Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

And the church lesson for the day is…?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 8, 2007

I think God has an ironic sense of humor, and I think He likes to tease me every now and then.

I went to church this morning. I was tempted to sleep in due to being a goob and staying up so late last night, but I didn’t go last week, it’s Easter (not that I’m big into Easter), and I had left over brownies and dolly bars to unload on the coffee hour goodie table.

Blessedly, being UUs, we didn’t have an extra long service. At least I don’t think we did – I didn’t check my watch when it ended, but our current minister is pretty good at ending the service at 11:30. Anyway, in the service we sang two hymns, “Morning Has Broken” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.”

I love “Joyful Joyful.” It’s one of my favorites, and we don’t sing it very often. However, the joy in singing “Morning Has Broken” was killed in boarding school where we sang it (Hymn #8 in the Episcopal hymnal) ad infinitum, ad nauseaum. I suspect that Hymn #8’s frequent appearances in chapel services was due to some hippy dippy chapel prefect saying, “Dude, let’s sing hymn #8. Cat Stevens sang it… that would sooo cool to sing it in chapel!” So we sang it, and sang it, and sang it some more, until I felt I would be happy to go through the rest of life without ever hearing that song again and be happy. I would even change the radio station if the Cat Stevens version came on. I really grew to hate that song.

But, oh how I loved singing “Joyful Joyful,” especially since for the first few years of boarding school we had a music director who could pull all the stops on the organ. He’d have the organ going full blast, illustrating all the wonder and grandeur and holy gravitas the Anglican musical tradition possesses. It was one of the few things I enjoyed in chapel.

Yet, for some reason, the only times we ever seem to sing “Joyful Joyful” in my little UU church are also the only times we ever seem to sing “Morning Has Broken.” It’s as if in order to enjoy one of my favorite hymns I have to endure one of my least favorite.

And maybe that is what God, the universe, life is trying to tell me. You can’t just have what you enjoy – you have to learn to deal with life’s unpleasantries; accept the good with the bad. Trite, I know. But maybe that is what it is.

Or maybe it is something else. The first time my church sang the dreaded Hymn #8, which is a different number in the UU hymnal, I cringed. I didn’t sing along. I just sighed inwardly and waited for the song to be over. However, since then, over the the three or four years I’ve been attending, my animosity towards the song has waned. This morning I sang along, and I didn’t find it too objectionable. It is still not my first choice of hymns, and I still fail to feel the joy of morning the song is trying to convey. But I did not feel the cringe reflex.

Perhaps enough time has passed since graduating from high school that my negative feelings towards that place have begun to fade. Or maybe I can begin to put them into proper perspective. After all, it really isn’t the song itself that caused me misery. It was whoever picked the song so many times for chapel service. It was my being forced to attend mandatory chapel services done in a religious tradition to which I do not belong. It was my not fitting in, and feeling alienated. And perhaps it is time for me to let go of those teenaged resentments, however valid.

I’m 36 now. It’s been 18 years since graduation. And while there was quite a bit my boarding school did wrong, I still was able to benefit from my experience there, although some benefits I didn’t notice until much later.

I got a good education. I learned, via osmosis, how to better negotiate class, which has helped me to understand different people better. I learned that while some rich people are assholes, there are a good number of rich people who are not. I made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Hispanics and Latinos from places like Lawrence and Lowell. First generation Indian Americans. Upper and upper middle class blue bloods. Future socialites of the Upper East Side. Nouveau riche. I learned that you cannot fully judge a person based on their class, income, or clothes. I learned that a person’s true value is based on their sincerity, their respect for others, and their actions.

Which leads me back to the lesson that life is a mixed bag. You have to take the good with the ugly. Or, maybe the more specific point is that few things are purely bad or purely good. And while it is part of our nature to rush to judgment, sometimes it takes time for us to see the larger picture and to be able to put things into perspective.

And part of that step is letting go of past resentments.

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