How do people who sing with their eyes closed know all the words? It’s uncanny. You watch them, and even on the new songs that a music minister introduces or the choruses that a special music performer asks the congregation to join in, they don’t miss a beat.
Do they get advance warning on what the songs are going to be? Are they coming to church early each Sunday and memorizing what’s going to be performed? Are they doing the “watermelon” and just mumbling “watermelon, watermelon” in a holy-looking way so that it looks like they’re singing along with the words? How in the world does someone singing with their eyes shut know all the words to all the songs in the world?
The truth is we don’t. Even though I’ve only been a card-carrying member of the singing with your eyes closed society for a very short time, I’ve learned a few tricks that I’ll be happy to share with you.
At the start of the song, read as many of the words as possible. This is the equivalent to taking a huge breath before you go under water. Breathe in as many words as you can, and then shut your eyes tightly.
Eventually though, you’re going to run out of words. It happens to the best of us and you’re going to need to come up for some lyrics. If you’re an amateur, you can crack your eyelids a little and peek, but there’s really no honor in that. Instead, try a distraction technique like a fake sneeze. Make it a big one, then open your eyes like, “Wow, that was a big sneeze.” Look through your stuff like you’re looking for a Kleenex, all the while sneaking glances at the words you’re unfamiliar with. Blow your nose dramatically, reading along as quickly as you can. No one’s going to criticize you for taking care of what appears to be either a cold or allergy with your eyes open.
Singing with your eyes closed can also be a team sport. You shouldn’t be afraid to get the people sitting near you involved. If you find yourself out of words in the middle of a song, just turn to your friend and pat them on the shoulder as if to say, “I’m glad you’re here at church today. Isn’t God awesome?” As you do, use your peripheral vision to read the hymn they have open, since they’re not an eyes-closed singer. If you’re sitting next to a spouse, you can rub their shoulder in an “I’m so blessed to have a spouse like you” kind of move. This is a double bonus because you look like a loving spouse and you get to maintain your holy front of already knowing all the words to all the songs.
Dropping something is also another excellent way to buy yourself some eyes wide open time. I personally prefer to drop my keys. In addition to clattering and creating an audio presence that something has happened, they’re shiny and cause people to look away from my face, which is usually anxiously reading the video screen and saying, “O’er, is that a word? O’er? Really?” If you’re completely lost and don’t know any of the words, you might have to raise your game and drop a coffee. Sure, it might get all over your Bible and the people around you, but at least no one will suspect you can’t hold your song breath for very long.
If all else fails, pretend you’re so deep into worship that you don’t need words. You’re lost in love to such a degree that knowing the second stanza to the song “Amazing Grace” isn’t really even an issue. Sure, it’s probably never good to pretend during worship and ultimately worship is about God not us, but if you don’t want to get kicked out of the eyes closed society, you might have to spill a hot coffee or two on the people sitting next to you.