There is quote, attributed to Lucy from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon, that goes like this:
Like the prayer attributed to Saint Francis, I’m doubtful that Lucy’s character ever actually uttered these words. Unlike the prayer of Saint Francis, I hold this opinion because this sentiment is so out of Lucy’s character. Lucy is know for being somewhat rough around the edges. She’s the one who is always pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown at the last minute. She gave him the nickname, “blockhead.” Her temper is notoriously hot and her fuse is equally short. She doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who carries around a song in her heart.
Of course, most people probably don’t think of Saint Paul as a guy with a song in his heart either. He was a bit arrogant. He could be prickly. He may or may not have killed a few Christians prior to his conversion, and yet, in Sunday’s lesson from Ephesians we find him admonishing the disciples in Ephesus to “sing and make melody to the Lord in your hearts.” I appreciate the “in your hearts” piece because I am an awful singer, but the real important part is the kind of song Paul calls us to carry within us. The Greek for “sing and make melody” is actually just two different Greek words that mean “to sing,” the second of which literally means to “sing praise.”
One of the hardest struggles for Christians of all ages is to change that initial reaction to a hardship or frustration. We are often slaves to our emotional reactions to things. Think, for example, about the last time you got cut off in traffic. What was your immediate reaction? Because I’ve not yet found a way to have a song of praise in my heart at all times, my reaction usually looks something like this:
Imagine how different the world would be if Christians could find a way to take Paul’s advice. How peaceful and loving might our environments be if the 70% of Americans who self-identify as Christians could make room for the Spirit to fill their hearts with praise rather than the muck that takes up so much space? Through the Daily Office, daily prayer, and daily Scripture reading, and with God’s help, we can make room for a song of praise in our hearts, but it takes time. So be patient with yourself, but keep on striving for toward the goal of carrying a song in your heart at all times.