Charlie Clark’s seat in church was toward the back, on the left. He did not enter God’s house hastily. He walked slowly, deliberately. He carried a well worn Bible under his arm, and you could tell by the way he cradled it that the old Bible and the old man were good friends all week long. It seemed that Charlie started the church service before he ever sat down in the auditorium. His manner and spirit reflected an attitude of reverence and preparedness for worship. Charlie’s thinning white hair was always clean, and combed. He always wore a coat and tie. Charlie loved worship and the study of God’s Word. Every Sunday, he and his wife took their customary place for morning worship.
I noticed that during the congregational singing, Charlie never sang. He always stood when the worship leader asked folks to stand. And, I could tell he seemed to be following along with his eyes as the words appeared on our large screen. But Charlie Clark rarely opened his mouth. He almost never sang a note in church.
It seemed strange to me that such an obviously devout man would not enter into the singing. His attendance at virtually every worship service underscored his devotion to God’s house. But he never sang.
I loved the old man. Maybe that is why I spoke to him on one particular Sunday as he left the sanctuary.
“Charlie,” I said, “I have noticed that you don’t sing the hymns during the congregational singing. Why is that?”
He smiled and we sat down together in chairs toward the back of the church.
“Doc, I need to tell you something. When I don’t sing, it’s not because I don’t feel the song. I just don’t want to bother anyone around me. I can’t sing. I’ve heard you say we all need to lift our voices in song. But you’ve never heard me sing. If I did, I’d distract everyone around me and get them off the note. I can’t sing. So I just follow the words in my mind.”
It is difficult for me to imagine life without singing. I hear music in the midst of the loudest chaos. Music is like a very best friend for me. When Charlie sat next to me telling me he couldn’t sing, I remember thinking how terribly lonely life would be without a song.
“Charlie,” I said, “Who told you you couldn’t sing?”
“Everybody knows I can’t sing, Pastor. I hear the melody as it goes by, but I can’t make my voice get on board that note. I’m a monotone. It’s awful when I try to sing.”
I put my arms around the old man, and I looked into his saintly face. I wanted to encourage him, to free the song of his life.
“Charlie,” I began, “the voice you have is from God. It was factory-installed. I understand that you may be a monotone. But Charlie, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Sing your note, Charlie. Sing it as unto the Lord. Sooner or later, the melody of the song will cross your note, and when it does, you’re going to be right on key. You may have to wait the whole song until your note comes by, but sooner or later, it will and you’ll be right on! And when you sing that note, Charlie, all heaven will stop to listen. I believe the angels will stop what they’re doing, and say, ‘Shh. Be quiet. Charlie’s about to sing his note.’” Charlie hugged my neck and said, “OK, Pastor. I’ll try.”
I began noticing on Sundays that Charlie was opening his mouth when he sang in church. He seemed to be making his joyful noise unto the Lord. My eyes would occasionally meet his as I led our congregation in some great hymn of faith. And it was easy to see when we were on Charlie’s note. It was as if he were soaring into the heavens on its updraft. His head would tilt back. His eyes would lift up. We were there, all right. It was time. Charlie’s note was here, and he sang it so all heaven could hear.