I have kind of a secret: I spend my Saturdays singing about the Lord.
It shouldn't feel like a secret, but it does. I mean, when a person says she has a secret, it's usually a big deal, something embarrassing or scandalous or off the wall, something she'd want to keep hidden. You know, like spending an inordinate amount of time in an opium den or having a whole separate family besides then one you know about or even thinking Two and a Half Men is quality television programming.
So I wouldn't call my secret embarrassing or scandalous or off the wall. It's not something I want to keep hidden. But the moment I go to tell someone about it, I hesitate. My heart beats quickly for a second, I feel my breath catch, and my brain races and pauses at the same time: Wait, I say to myself, what if this person thinks you're really, really into Jesus?
Saying something like that is totally double-edged. There's the the hand-wavy, explanatory, caveat edge, the one that says very loudly: NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, I MEAN I LOVE THE MUSIC, RIGHT?
But there's also the other edge, the one that made me think it in the first place. In the social circles in which I usually find myself, there's plenty of "spirituality," and lots of discussions of how much people dislike organized religion, and plenty of dabbling in religious and mystic traditions and practices from around the world. But Jesus doesn't hang out all that much. I'm not sure why. Maybe he's too... white?
Anyway, I admit there's something uncomfortable with someone immediately assuming you're going to want to talk to them about Jesus. Especially when all you want to tell them is that you sing gospel music. Sure, it's a reasonable assumption, but it's still awkward. There are those pesky connotations, that to anyone but a devoted Christian sound, say, a little pushy and a little intrusive.
Yet here I am, fumbling my way through countless conversations, telling everyone that I sing gospel music, and yes that means it's very much about Jesus, but no I'm not a part of the congregation, and hey isn't it funny because, did I mention? I'm Jewish.
By the time I've tripped my way through some poorly-executed introduction to my chosen activity, I've often raised more questions than I've avoided. But I'm finding that for the most part the questions aren't awful and judgmental, they're not uncomfortable or barbed. People are curious, supportive, surprised.
I guess I would be too: How does a little white Jewish girl end up singing alto in a mostly black acapella gospel choir in Richmond, California?