Music plays a big role in the church service. Familiar hymns and songs can help us connect to God. Soft background music welcomes us in the building, or covers the throat clearing during communion, but I wonder what we see when we look at the musicians?
Do we just see some folks playing instruments together? Do we know their names? Do we see them muddling through the songs or do we see musicians excelling in their craft? Do we see a group of people up on a pedestal, or are they merely the other side of an arbitrary line on floor, worshipping along side us except that they also play instruments? Do you think their spiritual ducks are all nicely lined up, or are their lives all over the place?
When I feel that my life is all together and things are going well, playing my guitar, singing … worshipping, if you will – it’s easy. But what about when things aren’t going so well? What about after yelling at the ducklings for something? What about if I am struggling with a lack of trust in God about stuff? What about a period of Domestic HissTM *? How can I then start singing “holy-holy-look-at-my-nice-halo” songs? With emotional bruises still turning purple, can I dare to start singing about how much I love God’s presence, or that His presence is like air to me. If I look at myself in the mirror during these times, would I not see a hypocrite? Is there not something weird going on? Yes. And no.
As I am finding these days, there is a huge difference between mood, feelings, and reality, but I am learning that I am always allowed to tell God how great He is. I am always allowed to tell him that I am lost without him, that his presence the air I long to breath. It can even be done with a song. If I am forgiven, then I am forgiven.
Repentance is incredibly important, I can’t expect God to bless me for a rebellious heart, yet it doesn’t matter that at some point I have missed the mark. It doesn’t matter how many of my ducks are not in a row. Why not? Because we have all fallen short of the mark set by God for our lives. The thing is though, that sometimes even after repentance and apologies, the mood or feelings can still remain, as if they are trying to hold us back from getting close to the Father God.
It is in these moments that worship becomes a conscious decision. Even an act of defiance.
Sung worship is many things. It can be ‘making a joyful noise to the Lord’. It can be a happy song when things are going well.
It can be warfare. Think about, for example, the story of Jericho? The Israelites marched around the city for nearly a week in silence, but on the final day sounded the trumpets and shouted praises to God. The walls came down. What walled cities have we been marching around in silence? Is it not time to sound a trumpet, bring down the walls and conquer them?
It can also be a song of pain, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. Even though this Psalm starts with the words of someone who is feeling about as low as someone can be, look at how David concludes:
29All who are rich and have more than enough will bow down to you, Lord. Even those who are dying and almost in the grave will come and bow down. 30In the future, everyone will worship and learn about you, our Lord. 31People not yet born will be told, “The Lord has saved us!”
From beginning the song with the feeling that God has abandoned him, to the faithful cry that people not even born yet will be told “The Lord has saved us!”. That’s quite a leap.
In terms of musical worship it does not matter whether you are in a band on a stage, the church organist, choir member or a member of the congregation, one of the lies which the devil will whisper in your ear is that you are not good enough to worship. Or that if you did, it wouldn’t be acceptable. As mentioned before, we are always allowed to tell God how great He is. Even if we feel our lives are just a mess. Sometime, a simple word of worship is enough to get us up off the floor and onto our knees. Whilst we are on our knees we can then talk to God about our brokenness. We can tell Him sorry if we need to, we can accept his healing if that is needed. Then up off our knees and we stand. An act of defiance against the brokenness we found ourselves in and against the lies of the enemy who tries to keep us there.
I have used the phrase sung, or musical worship as a reminder that there are other forms of worship in use during a church service. Indeed, I remember a bit in the bible which explains that a Christian’s whole life should be one of worship. This does not mean singing in the rain as you drag your weary self to work. It is more about your heart’s attitude, and it doesn’t matter what mood you are in or how “holy” you feel. A while ago I wrote, “Have you ever seen bubbling sand?“, about an experience I had once when I was spiritually running on empty. I felt about as spiritually and emotionally empty as one could, but God used me in, I think, nearly every role that afternoon except preaching.
By learning to “Worship in the broken”, I have learned that I need not to be afraid of the Father. If have screwed up some, I can apologise and turn to back towards Him. I have learned that God accepts me as I am, and through a time of worship and prayer He changes me step-by-step for the better. I have learned how to sing when people who don’t appreciate my singing can hear me. Worshipping in the broken has taught me that worship can be an intimate hiding place, a shelter with Jesus from the storms of life. Worshipping in the broken birthed my first worship song.
No matter how broken we feel, facing the Father with an unveiled face, in defiance of the things that would hold us back, I think that’s the thing.