The high point of Joyful Noise for me was Queen Latifah’s rendition of the spiritual “Fix Me, Jesus,” her lone voice plenty powerful without the choir or strings that swelled in toward the end. I’ve listened to it over and over since then, the phrase “fix me” taking on shades of meaning.
Fix me, because I don’t feel enough, I don’t feel myself to be enough, not at all, and not for the work at hand.
Fix me, because there are wrongs in me that need putting right, that I can’t repair on my own, not at all.
Fix me, fix me right here in the place, hold me and keep me from running because right here is where my work is and my life is, and I need to stand here, fixed in this place.
And then there was something in the way Queen Latifah sang the song that almost sounded like she was singing “Fit me, Jesus,” and I heard that, too, my brain’s auditory “typo” shading the message yet again:
Fit me for this, Jesus, this right here in front of me that I don’t believe I can do, but you’ve called me to it, you’ve called it to me, so fit me for it, Jesus, fit me.
The song holds both the ache and the faith I feel, deep down in whatever this relationship is that I have with God. The ache of absence and lack and negation and longing … the faith of believing in something greater that — as Iris Dement puts it — “fits in for ways I lack.” Not faith that I will [fill in the blank] … faith that God will.
I stand before a challenge — the unknown stranger, the new class, the different work — feeling only I can’t.
I reach out to God, like a child reaching up her hands asking to be picked up, and I am made able. If I let it happen. I don’t always want to.
And then “Fix me, Jesus” helps. I listen to Queen Latifah’s voice swelling forth; I sing along, my voice weak but my throat and heart full.
Thank you, to the nameless African American person who gave voice to her longing and need, back in darker days than I will ever know, giving this song to her community to help it survive slavery and Jim Crow and the countless blows since.
Thank you, Queen Latifah, for this rendition, lifting me out of myself and toward the One who does fix me, and fit me.
And thank you, too, to Alvin Ailey and the Alvin Ailey dancers, who give the words a whole other life.