I didn’t get my wife’s reaction to yesterday’s Catch where I talked about John 3:16 and gave everyone a link to St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (London) of men and boy’s voices singing John Stainer’s musical rendition of the words of John 3:16-17 until last night, because she hadn’t had time for the Catch during the day. I was anxious for her to hear especially the beautiful rendering of those famous words from the straight-toned bell-like angelic voices of boy sopranos echoing through the halls of a great European cathedral. I must have listened to it at least ten times yesterday.
So when I finished playing the video and reading the Catch, I eagerly awaited her response and there was nothing. She didn’t get it. The whole thing completely missed her.
That’s when I realized my appreciation of that particular music was deeply rooted in my experience as a child hearing our church choir sing this piece yearly, with my father directing it and my mother singing in it. I can still see my mother’s face glowing with emotion as she sang these beloved words — obviously realizing the joy of her own salvation as she sang. And if you have had a lot of experience hearing choirs sing, you realize there is something uniquely special and inspiring about this particular a cappella piece of music that makes it stand out in your memory. It’s interesting that the majority of the comments on the YouTube video page where I found it are all dealing with people’s memories of either singing this piece in a choir or hearing it sung earlier in their life.
And then I realized my wife had none of these experiences coloring her listening to the song for the first time. Nor did she have much experience with choirs in general. This rich emotion I was feeling didn’t connect to her at all. On top of that, my writing on the subject so emphasized the world that she missed the personal experience. It was for the world and not for her or me. The whole world is a little too general for Marti. Sometimes I have to think of Marti as a non-Christian because that is how she relates to the gospel. She doesn’t have the long evangelical history I have of talking about “the world” all the time. Marti cares that Christ died for her, and for everyone she meets whether they know about it or not. So yesterday’s Catch totally blew by her.
This is important to know, because you can’t only rely on emotions and feelings. It’s got to come down to personal experience. It’s not just the choir and the voices and the “God so loved the world” message, it’s my mother glorying in the joy of her salvation, and it’s me hearing a sound I can only describe as angelic reminding me about mine that makes sense, even to Marti.
God’s loving of the world has got to come down to you and me. Otherwise, it’s just theology.