How singing often leads to an outpouring of emotionby Lisa Schmucker Showalter
You may know one. You may even be one yourself. They are everywhere. I call them “songweepers.” Songweepers are people who just can’t seem to hold their emotions in check upon hearing or, especially, singing certain songs.
I coined this term several years ago, when my husband’s (Brian’s) uncle passed away. As we prepared the music for the funeral, there was speculation from the Troyers (Brian’s maternal family) about whether or not they would be able to sing at the funeral due to the likelihood of crying.
The Troyers are not an emotional bunch. They’re loving, warm, genuine and given to practical joking—or joking of any kind. But one would not define them as sappy. Brian’s uncle Steve couldn’t make sense of it. “I can be surrounded by blood, guts and all kinds of devastation and be fine, but if you throw a song into the middle of it, I’m a mess.” Aunt Joyce tried a scientific approach, explaining, “There is a nerve directly attached to the vocal cord that goes into the part of the brain that controls tears. I’m fine until I open my mouth to sing.” (I don’t think this has been proven scientifically.)
While the Troyers aren’t a sappy bunch, they are a singing bunch. They sing together. When I first joined the family, we sang hymns at the dinner table prior to holiday meals.
Not in a cheesy, contrived, Norman Rockwell painting sort of way but in a sincere, honest, enthusiastic way. They grew up singing together and taught all their children to sing together, and now all the in-laws have joined the song. For them, family memories are tied to singing. In fact, after Brian’s grandmother passed away, no one, including Brian (who seems to have inherited the song-weeping gene), could sing her favorite hymn, “To Us a Child of Hope is Born,” with a dry eye.
Memories are certainly key in tying emotion to singing. Music helps us retrieve memories. But followers of Christ get an added benefit. The music of the church helps us grapple with profound faith questions. It helps us experience the indefinable and divine love of God. For that reason, just one singing of an amazing text paired with a beautiful melody can have me fighting back tears. I am so thankful for God’s infinite wisdom in creating this outlet and expression for us.
At the funeral, Brian and I turned around at one point and, sure enough, there stood his mom and aunt, singing and weeping. Psalm 108:1 says, “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” Sometimes, having all your soul in it means a little weeping, too. I say, songweepers unite. But someone will have to keep themselves composed enough to keep the song going.
Lisa Schmucker Showalter was minister of worship and music at North Main St. Mennonite Church, Nappanee, Ind.
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