From the instant I met Jay, I had a wide-eyed crush on her. I was, to quote the famous line from Walt Disney’s Jungle Book, “hooked.” Too bad Jay did not feel the same way. She humored me for a couple of months before informing me, somewhat gently, that I was NOT the man of her dreams. I found out a couple of days later that a dope-smoking, beer-swilling, backstabbing frat brother of mine had swept her off her feet. I only had myself to blame. I introduced Jay to him at a party. How was I supposed to know that Judas-of-a-fraternity-brother would find a way to steal her away from me? But…he did. It took a few consultations with my pastor, before I even considered forgiving him. The good Reverend told me that I had to love and forgive him, but that it was also acceptable to God to hate what he did. I was OK with latter part of the pastor’s equation, but it took a long time to embrace the former.
Despite Jay’s obvious poor taste in men, she was a very devout Christian. I was, at the time, in the throes of a rebellion against the rigid, judgmental Christianity of my youth. That brand of religion judged me to be a dirty rotten sinner. Since I refused to spend the rest of my life groveling before God, eternally begging for forgiveness, I decided I may as well “sin boldy.” After all, sinning was much more fun. Feeling the way I did, there was not an ounce of desire in my soul to go to church, but Jay wanted me to go and, wherever Jay wanted me to go, I went.
We attended the Presbyterian Church on the edge of campus faithfully each Sunday. On the inside, I was cursing the preacher and his God, while on the outside I appeared angelic and devout. One thing I did enjoy, however, was singing. The music in that church was amazing. The organist would pull out the stops on the pipe organ and Jay and I would sing our hearts out. The only problem was that Jay could not sing. She was so off-key that the people standing near us cringed.
One Sunday, the service ended with the singing of the oldie-but-goodie, “How Great Thou Art”. Not too many folks have the pipes to hit the high note on the refrain’s last “How GREAT Thou Art!” Jay, however, zestfully attacked it. Her voice fell far short of the high note, somewhere between bad and “badder,” and finally slivered down to rest on a note that wreaked havoc on any eardrum within a five-pew radius. As the organ moved on to the final verse, I leaned over to Jay and whispered with as much kindness as I could muster, “Jay, you might want to sing a little more softly.”
Jay, without hesitation, responded sharply, “God created my voice and He’ll have to listen to it.”
Poor God did have to listen Jay, but, unfairly, so did I and so did those seated within earshot of us. Her futile attempt to hit that note certainly put a negative spin on the Psalmist’s encouragement to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
Now let me do an about face. Every time I see a picture of Kayla Mueller, I get so angry I can’t see straight. Several months ago, ISIS abducted Kayla, a beautiful young woman who was giving her life to help alleviate human suffering. Last week, she died, perhaps murdered, by those despicable and evil monsters. Every time I feel her eyes staring at me from the photograph her parents released of her, I let God have it. It’s really ugly what I have to say to God. Some of what I scream is not respectful of the one who is “how great Thou art”, but rather I state emphatically “how wrong God art!” With epithets I learned working in the steel mill as a kid, I give God an earful: “What the (expletive deleted) are you doing up there? Why are you fiddling while the world burns?”
I suppose if you were seated next to me while I was shouting my angry “noise” at God, you might lean over and whisper gently, “PJ, you might want to speak to God a little more softly.”
To which I respond, “God created me with these feelings, so God will just have to listen to me. This has to stop. No more Kaylas! This **** has gone on too damn long. Stop it God! I can’t take it. Stop it NOW.”
Maybe I’ll sing “How Great Thou Art” again, but not until I don’t have to stare into the eyes of murdered innocence. As long as I do, God will have to listen to me. God will just have to listen to my angry noise.