Emily and I were in worship yesterday at our local church, which means that we were singing, praying, etc. with a group of people who were also worshipping God. Already I have used some odd terms, and I wouldn’t blame the someone for classifying this as either cultish or quaint. I assure you it is neither, but it’s hard to explain something that can only be experienced through relationship. Worship is where we take all of our attention, all of our hearts, our lives, and everything that makes us, and focus exclusively on God. Somehow, God is present as Father, Son, and Spirit, simultaneously being worshipped and helping us to worship, which is demanding yet exceedingly generous. If it sounds mystical it’s because it is mystical. Mysterious, transcendent, yet true and utterly transformative. Worshiping God scratches our deepest itch.
What’s God like? I find out by spending time with Him and a bunch of other people who seek to do the same. In worship, I continually discover something about love, grace, holiness, hope, encouragement, challenge, and truth. All of that good stuff is encapsulated by God. Or, to put it another way, God encapsulates all that good stuff. He is an uncreated creative being, connected to us through revelation and relationship given through Jesus Christ. Jesus did what no other human being could ever possibly do, m],and one of the results is that we can be in relationship with His Dad, our maker and Heavenly Father. Pretty wild.
My role in worship on Sunday was to play the piano and sing songs. Emily was sitting with the congregation, surrounded by friends who were also there for worship. We’re all different yet God meets us all exactly in the shape we’re in. For us, my wife and I that is, the week behind us is nothing too wonderful. It stinks. We bring these things with us as we worship together, not pretending we’re ok because that would mean holding something back, but rather bringing everything to worship, crummy weeks and seizures and lack of faith, too.
Anyway, my job was to play the piano. So I did. And I sang songs I believed yet didn’t believe… yet did. How confusing — we know what we believe, we feel what we believe, yet we don’t believe it enough to live like it always. I’m a mostly. You?
For example, we sang this lyric:
“I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”
So true! Such a robust yet simple statement! Do I believe it! Mostly!
What comes first… the confession or the belief? If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. In the linear of Romans 10:9, it looks like it starts with my words and my heart follows. But could it be the other way around? All these empirical and ontological and theological and spirographic questions… and all I’m trying to say is that I can’t help but feel like a dirty liar.
That’s one of the worst kinds of lie, you know: lying through song.
Then again, there was something profound about saying — or, in this case, singing — what I know is true. The chords were, by the way, Bb, C, F, Dm, C, F, which is a very ear-pleasing progression. Even more ear-pleasing was the sound of other people singing it, too. Now, I don’t dare assume that I know much about others, but I do find that, statistically speaking, all of us are struggling in some area. I also know that life is cyclical and seasonal, and that we have our ups and downs. Together, we confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts what we (should) believe. And maybe, after that quality time in God’s presence, we believe it enough to know that it’s going to be ok. Perhaps I was making faith too complex by demanding that I understand every facet of stuff only God knows. Have you ever done that?
Emily told me after the service that she cried — not because she didn’t believe but because she knew that I had spent many moments gripped in fear over what happened last week. What else can we do but be who we are? Why try otherwise? To fool God?
I sit here on a Monday evening and still find reasons to be freaked out. But the sun is stationary as we make our ollie oop around it, and things are spinning, and yet gravity still works and the days march on. Who am I? A child of the One who made that and everything else. Emily, too. It’ll be ok.
And that, my friends, is the transformative power of Worship.