Released this summer, the upbeat tune blends Michelle Williams’ Destiny’s Child past with her gospel present. I thought it had potential jam status when I first heard it, but I was immediately distracted by the chorus’s lyrics, which include an obvious grammatical error.
“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”
Even as I type that, Microsoft Word has inserted a squiggly green line underneath “say,” indicating that something is wrong. Yet Michelle, Kelly, Beyoncé, producers, and label executives all let that line ride when they recorded the single? Whyyyyy?
On social media, I heard other people asking the same question. Why ‘say’ when it should have been ‘says?’ Some of us were simply curious, some of us slightly annoyed, and some of us downright angry.
The answer came via a friend of a friend on Facebook: the song is a remake of a popular African tune. Though the title of the original is “When Jesus Says Yes,” the singers’ accents seem to naturally drop the ‘s’ from the end of says. Michelle and company chose to stay true to the song’s origins, leaving the tune as is, imperfect grammar and all.
Satisfied with this response, I decided to give the song a break. I listened and hummed along when it came on the radio, but still had trouble getting into it.
So when did “Say Yes” transition from a song with a nice beat and a faulty line, into my jam? Probably about the time I encountered a situation in which, in spite of God’s yes, people and circumstances said no. The song reminded me that God has the final word. It was nothing I did not already know, but it was the reassurance I needed in that moment. As the tension left my shoulders, I decided there was nothing left to do but dance and trust God to work it out.
I wonder how many times God extends His hand to us for a dance, but we find fault with his song choice. I wonder how often God gives us an on-time word through less than eloquent words.
With a song that begins “I’m not worried ‘bout a thing,” so many of us were worried about the wrong things. Some of us were too busy dissecting the words to grab hold of the hope offered in the broader message. We were so put off by one grammatical error that we never gave the words a chance to make their way from our heads into our hearts.
I recently heard a sermon from someone who had a thick foreign accent; I listened in spite of the broken English and was blessed immensely. I think of God’s choice to send His messages to the Israelites through Moses, who had a speech impediment (Exodus 6:12). I think of this blog, a space where I break grammar rules every post simply because I like the way it sounds; and thankfully, y’all read anyway. And finally, there is the Bible, which I once heard referred to as one of the worst written documents in history. Translated from Hebrew and other languages, the Bible may not always sound pretty to my English-trained ears. Yet it has always been beautiful to my broken heart, a source of peace for my anxious nerves, and guidance for my confused mind.
Be careful not to make a big deal out of the little things, missing the picture altogether. I’m sure Satan would like nothing more.
Don’t get so distracted by the delivery of the message that you fail to comprehend the depth of its meaning. Don’t miss your word because it is not perfectly packaged. Don’t let your pet peeves and preferences cause you to brush aside your blessing. Don’t let rules make you miss Jesus.
We don’t always have to critique. Sometimes all we need to do is say yes.
SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area.
A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.