There’s an old Joni Mitchell song from the ’70’s called “Big Yellow Taxi,” that came to mind today in Sacrament meeting. The key line is, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Yes, I acknowledge that it is a weird song to think about during Sacrament meeting, but here’s the back story: Our ward has always been an “okay” ward when it comes to congregational singing. Not bad, but not wholly invested like some wards I’ve attended.
Then came the pandemic. When we were able to meet again, everyone was required to wear masks, the hymnbooks were no longer in the pews, and the singing stopped. We could sit and listen as the hymns were played on organ or piano, and enjoy musical numbers, but singing was verboten.
Of course, this runs counter to our Church experience, since the Restoration was in its infancy. The Lord directed Emma Smith accordingly, “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymn, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25: 11-12)
I enjoy singing with my brothers and sisters in the congregation, and, apparently the Lord likes to hear us sing, too. For the past year, that joy has been absent or inconsistently applied.
This morning, as we attended Sacrament Meeting, it was nice to look up and see that the bishopric was maskless, about half the congregation was maskless, and the hymnbooks were back in their rightful slots in the back of the pews. Attendance was even up because a departing missionary was speaking.
The opening hymn was, “How Great Thou Art,” and about halfway through, Chrissie looked over at me and said, “Wow! It sounds really good!”
I stopped singing and listened for a moment – she was right. The congregation was singing in full voice, and it sounded great. It felt great. Even more, it didn’t sound like our ward was singing like in the pre-COVID days – it sounded better. It was at that moment that the line came to my mind, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
I was curious if it was just us that felt this way, so when I happened to see Gail, a dear friend, and our chorister, setting up her Primary class, I poked my head into her room and asked her what she thought. Her response, “It sounded great from where I was standing! I’m glad you heard it, too.”
I asked her why she thought it was so improved. Her response? “Maybe people missed it?”
I hope that is the case. I missed singing, and am so glad to have it back in our worship services. It adds so much to the meeting, brings the Spirit, and lets us join together in a united voice. (Zion, anyone?)
The question this brings to mind is…will it last? Is the renewed energy a temporary thing in response to not having it, or is it a new commitment to singing songs of praise to our Lord.
Time will tell.
This same idea applies to other things in our lives as well. Sometimes when we lose something, or can’t have something for a time, we either try to get it back, or learn to live without it. The story of the woman who lost a coin comes to mind:
“…what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” (Luke 15: 8-9)
There are so many things we can lose: Relationships, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, our faith, our hope, our testimonies, our cleanliness. Learning to live without them is always an option, but a lousy option. Working to restore what was lost might be difficult, time consuming, or even painful, but when that lost thing is restored, how great is the joy.
Being without something as simple as singing hymns, and then getting it back, helped me remember that, occasionally, we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone – and it feels great to get it back.