I am honestly ashamed to say how much I can relate to this.
All or nothing
I love yoga. Not for the creepy, Eastern-type religion, your-body-is-a-tree-rooted-to-Mother-Earth kind of stuff that Christians often fearfully associate with it. I love it because it’s great exercise and it helps me to relax and calm my body and mind (and that is something I desperately need). I love how my body feels when I finish.
This past year, I encountered some ear problems. It felt like there was water in my ear that just simply wouldn’t come out. Or my ear needed desperately to pop and it couldn’t. I went to my doctor and an ear nose throat doctor to ensure that it was nothing serious. I was told it was probably just fluid stuck in my eustachian tube. Nothing serious, and it should clear up on it’s own, but way annoying.
During this time, I found that some yoga poses seemed to aggravate my ear. Poses like downward facing dog (one of my favorites) sometimes made my head feel like it would explode. So I decided to ease off those poses in an effort to let my ear heal.
Unfortunately, I am an all or nothing kind of person.
Since I couldn’t do some of my favorite poses, I essentially gave up on my yoga practice. Which is ridiculous, because there are plenty of other yoga poses and stretches that don’t involve my head being upside down. I could have easily altered my routine and made it work for my current situation.
But I didn’t. I just gave up.
Sometimes my worship is like that.
Since worship music is not connecting with me anymore, I’ve almost given up on worship altogether. Which is stupid. I know that worship is not just limited to music. And yet, I can’t seem to make the effort to alter my life to connect with other types of worship. I shrug my shoulders and just go about my life, simply going through the motions. I don’t open my life to the gloriousness that it could be if I would only let myself worship in other ways.
I need to remind myself of the ways that I can worship. Just because music isn’t “doing it for me” anymore does not mean that I walk away, saying, “Sorry God. I tried.”
Here are some other ways that I can worship.
- Long walks and soaking in God’s creation.
- Serving others. I have countless opportunities to do this, and if I see it as an act of worship, I will (hopefully) do it joyfully and not begrudgingly.
- Turning off my TV and soaking in some quiet.
- Loving my husband and being a good wife.
- Taking time to be thankful for my life rather than focusing on the things I’m not so happy with.
My goal is to make an effort to focus on all the ways I could be worshipping.
Question: What are some non-musical ways you worship?
Shy little me
The plastic chair trembles under me. I grip it with my little white knuckles. The teacher looks at me. She has a kind smile on her face as she patiently waits, but for some reason, I am unable to answer her. It’s a simple question. What color construction paper do you want? My mouth stays shut. I am frozen under her gaze. If I move my mouth and words come out, the earth will swallow me up.
I was an awkwardly shy child. Seriously. I hated being on the spot and hated talking to strangers. Being painfully shy is a hard thing. It’s hard to function through life when you feel too afraid to talk to anyone. It’s hard to communicate when you’re afraid to speak. I found that for most of my early life, I faded into the background of all the talkative people in the world. If someone was energetic and outgoing, my thoughts and feelings would not be heard because I didn’t have the strength or energy to fight for air.
Which is why music became so important for me. I stumbled into my voice in middle school, but it wasn’t until high school that I found the courage to perform a solo. Although I was the most nervous I’d ever been, the applause and affirmation I received were amazing. As I continued to perform, I found that singing was a way for me to have undivided attention for the three to four minutes of my song. I could communicate with no interruptions, and I could do it beautifully and poetically.
When I discovered worship music, it was a double bonus. I could communicate my thoughts on my greatest belief to those who listened, and I was able to praise God. It was perfect. I felt a great peace every time I sang, like confirmation that I was in God’s will. Singing made me happy, and from the feedback I got from my church congregation, I gathered that I was blessing people in the process. I made the decision that I wanted to devote my life to worship. I decided to major in church music.
So what do you do when the thing that you decided to devote your life to no longer makes sense; when the direction you wanted to take your life in is suddenly fuzzy? Singing still makes me happy, but worship music often leaves me feeling empty. I don’t connect with worship songs like I used to. When I sing them, my mouth is moving and going through the motions, but my heart is just not feeling it.
Where do I go from here?
Why is worship or music important to your life? Or why is it unimportant?
Where it all began
With growing boredom, I slump down into the hard pew and stare at the tiny pencils and prayer cards in front of me. I breathe out a silent sigh of frustration, knowing I will chance a dirty look from Mom if I let it out loud. My sister sits next to me, slightly less fidgety than me. I try to pay attention to the words the man in front is saying, but they make no sense. Words like salvation and repentance mean nothing to my four-year-old brain.
Finally, he asks us to turn to page 294 in our hymnals. I jump up eagerly, knowing the service is drawing to a close. I stand on tiptoe next to my mother, and peer intently at the Methodist hymnal in her hand. The organ plays some long, loud tones and I look around, wondering what is coming next. Everyone around me begins singing in unison, and I listen in awe. All I can see are strange black lines and markings on the page before me. It’s like some strange code that everyone knows but me. I stare more intently, hoping that the unfamiliar markings will begin to make sense and I will be able to join in. No matter how hard I focus on the hymnal, it doesn’t become any clearer. I simply listen to the angelic voices around me. There is an awe that seems to fall upon the room. I look up at the faces as they sing. The women are smiling, as though at peace with the world.
Before I could read music or knew what salvation meant, I knew that there was a bit of mystery and reverence involved in worship. It was holy before I had a full understanding of the word. Though I couldn’t sing along to the hymns at that young age, I could sense the adoration in the room. I longed to be privy to the strange code so that I could join along in the singing.
It was special. It was not to be taken lightly.
Worship rarely has that sense of awe for me anymore. There’s no mystery; no reverence. I’m too flippant. I forget that I am bowing down before the God of heaven and earth and everything. It just turns into, “Hey God, thanks for all the stuff You do. You’re pretty cool.” Although I believe that God wants me to be comfortable and free in worshipping Him, He is still the God of power and might; the God who would smite down the Israelites for disobeying. I would do well to remember that.
What’s your earliest memory of worship?
This is why I write
Walking into the dimly lit sanctuary, I find myself coughing from the fog that is descending upon the space. Colored lights are set dramatically at different angles on stage. I hear someone comment behind me, ?Is this worship or a Pink Floyd concert?? They laugh at their joke, but I am uneasily asking myself the same thing.
Worship begins. Low mellow music fills the air for a few measures while the stage lights slowly bring the band into view. Electric guitar riffs blare through the speaker directly over my head and catchy drumbeats cause everyone to rise to their feet. The sound of hands clapping fills my ears. The worship leader takes center stage and shouts, ?WE WORSHIP YOU JESUS!? The congregation roars in approval.
I stand alone in the crowd, feeling like I?m being swallowed. Tears prick my eyes, but these are not the tears of gratefulness that I used to offer in worship. These are tears of frustration. I feel no worshipfulness. I feel empty.
?God,? I whisper to myself, ?Where are You??
I know He?s probably here somewhere, but I can?t seem to find Him. I can?t connect in worship anymore. As soon as the music starts, the wall goes up. I try to connect, but most feeble attempts are just that and nothing more. The words mean nothing and become a jumble on the PowerPoint screen. The band soon becomes nothing more than loud noise. It all starts to seem so showy.
So instead of worshipping, I find myself becoming cynical and critical. I stop singing. I judge every typo on the screen (Your all I want? Really? Who?s proofing these things?) or missed note on stage. I walk away wondering what the point of it all was.
It wasn?t always like this. I used to thrive on worship. I am a vocalist, and used to be one of those peppy singers at the front of the stage. If I wasn?t on stage, I was in the front row with hands raised high to the heavens.
So where did this disconnect begin happening? Why has it happened? Is there something to this, a lesson to be learned? Do I have a message to share with the church or simply gunk to work through in my own life? This is why I will write; to discover all that is going on under the surface. I will sort out the good and hopefully sift away the bad.? I will learn as I go and maybe share something of value.
Hopefully I will be able to look at worship in a whole new light and emerge on the other side of this vast valley.