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Singing in the Rain

Maybe you recall the movie by that name. Maybe you’ve seen images of Gene Kelly prancing around under an umbrella singing the song. And maybe you’ve managed to croak out something of song yourself while in the throes of a storm. It’s not easy to do. Most of us feel more like sobbing in the rain rather than singing. And yes, rain is a metaphor for the unpleasant, unexpected, trying, and troublesome circumstances we encounter as we live these fragile and fleeting lives of ours.

And no, it’s not easy to do but the grace of singing in the rain is a sure sign of joy. No, not happiness. Joy. No, not the forced gratitude to please someone demanding it of us and certainly not the insincere platitudes offered to placate a God we fear is punishing us. Joy which flickers like a candle in the darkness. Joy which bubbles like an unseen underground spring. Joy which isn’t hinged upon external circumstances the way happiness is. Joy which can’t be repressed and must be expressed as if in song and yes, even in the rain.

In 1966 the news of a tragedy in Wales spread throughout the world. A coal mine in the village of Aberfan collapsed releasing nearly 140,000 cubic yards of mining waste out onto the rain-saturated mountainside. It reached a schoolhouse and claimed the lives of half of the village’s youth among others. Queen Elizabeth refused to go to the funeral held in remembrance of most of the victims. She sent Prince Phillip. The royal ambassador stood amid the grieving villagers sobbing at the sight of scores of small coffins in an open grave.

When Phillip returned to Buckingham Palace, the queen asked him about the experience. “Eighty-one children were buried today,” he began, saying he could see the rage behind the eyes of those who gathered. “They didn’t smash things up. They didn’t fight in the streets,” he reported with a wisp of wonder in his voice. “What did they do?” inquired the queen. “They sang. The whole community. It was the most astonishing thing I ever heard,” the prince confessed.

They sang. They sang the hauntingly comforting hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” They sang through their tears. They sang on a day when the sun all but slipped from the sky. They sang in the rain of their rage. Not easy. Sheer grace.

Joy is born more of hope than of pleasure. Joy is knit together with sturdy strands of trust. Joy is the tender music of peace in a turbulent heart. Joy is of God.

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