What a Friend We Have in Jesus

th-15He belted out “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” with the courage and volume of Pavarotti. He was so excited to be serving his little community of worshipers in this way. As he sang, my heart rejoiced with the Father over this spiritually young believer singing with all his soul.

He looked my way for approval. I was going to be speaking. I smiled, and as I got up, I commended his courage in leading this little band of worshipers.

His boldness implied he had a sense of safety, love, and acceptance there. His smile indicated he was proud of his new position of responsibility. He practiced all week on the songs he sang—two for worship, one as a solo. Back and forth he roamed the corridors of the flea market singing his songs over and over again. Practicing. Practicing. Practicing.

His background is poverty and isolation. He has very little to be proud of. His efforts, or lack of them, have produced little success in the light of the glass ceiling of poverty. Yet here he was, a man of hope and vision—singing with all his might.

I heard his leading described as a train wreck—a dissonant melody of unrelated chords and notes. And it was. I knew the song was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” because of the words, not the melody. Up was down; down was up;  time was off and on by halves and thirds. He was impossible to follow, but he led with glorious zest.

If he had a clue as to how he sounded, he would probably never lead anything again—and definitely not worship. But even now, I am moved to tears over his enthusiasm and courage. I don’t know how purely he is motivated. For me it doesn’t really matter; that is between him and God.

For me it is a reminder that others can be blessed, even in my half-starts and stumbling steps. My imperfect words, worship, and service are sanctified not by my perfection, but by the Holy Spirit’s work. His singing encourages me to be bold, to be reckless in my pursuit of glorifying God.

His off-key worship creates a kind of time warp in the universe. For a few minutes this man, who is as wide as he is tall and who can’t keep time or tune—creates a crack in the holy perfection of what we think should be. Acceptance, love, and encouragement triumph over perfectionism. A joyful gift makes its way to the heavens and is heard.


I need this, for I am he—a stumbling, imperfect offering of work and worship. I sense God’s smile on him, and I know that it is meant for me as well. What a friend we have in Jesus!

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