Losing Myself in Bringing You Praise9:55 PM
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply….come
Where this post should begin or end, I have no idea. There’s something that’s been on my heart, nagging at my mind forever it seems. There’s something wrong with our worship. When I was a little girl, and the worship team sang at the front of the church, my mom would take me to the back so I could dance. I would stand back there twirling in my Sunday best, listening to the music and swaying along, completely unaware of attracting any attention, just enjoying the people singing and the tangible presence of my Jesus. Sometimes, oftentimes, I miss that. I miss its simplicity, its grace, its innocence uncontaminated with pride and vainglory, its realness for lack of a better word.
In college, I was part of a traveling worship team. The people on this team were talented, let me tell you. Their voices and musicianship were the envy of our entire school and beyond. We were influential, hoity toity, proud. It was cutthroat even to become a part of the band. The auditions were strikingly American Idolesque, the competition fierce. And yet, for the two years I sang in the band I can tell you honestly that the times were sadly seldom in which I experienced God’s presence. Much of this lay with where I was with God at the time but it strikes me that although we were good, very good, our offering was shoddy when our hearts were not in the right place. “I’ll bring you more than a song for a song, in itself is not what you have required.”
Music was in many ways my god. Music understood me when no one else could. On that stage, I was allowed to feel all of the raging emotions of life that we are taught so decidedly in our culture to avoid. From rage to passion and deep pain, I soon found the only place where I really felt at home or alive was on the stage behind the mask of someone else’s lyrics, someone else’s feelings.
And then of course were the compliments. Performing defined me, set me apart, made me something special. I was on top of the world, a slightly big fish in an extraordinarily small pond, known to everyone, known by none. I felt the pressure of having to act a certain way, dress a certain way, wear a certain kind of makeup and associate only with certain people. In my final year of university, I lost over thirty pounds and gave myself a somewhat extreme makeover. One of the other band members said that if we had a “most changed” award in our yearbook, I most certainly would have won it. I was pleased and yet disturbed. Where had the little dancing girl gone who had thought only of a Jesus just as real and alive as any member of her family? And who was this person who had replaced her?
It began to make me sick. The entire performing scene was a putrid, the worship especially so. At least in the other arts, people weren’t claiming to represent God. After university I walked away from it all. I developed a biting cynicism towards worship leaders and a deep seated distrust of myself when involved in a worship team. I had seen who I could become if I stayed in music. I vowed I would never sing another note unless it had originated from my Lord and ended at His feet. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I honestly didn’t know if He would ever call me back into music.
While working inIreland, I sang only on occasion and yet, in the midst of the physical labor my job required and the multitude of smaller duties, I found respite. I was loved by God and by other people not because I was Rachel the singer but simply because I was Rachel. When I moved toGermany, I was even quieter about my “past” and yet the stirrings were there in me to once again sing, if only one song for my Lord and King. However, it wasn’t the time. For almost an entire year, God called me to sit in the church and pray. This was a somewhat simple request. I knew virtually no one, and understood only a word here and there of the language so all one could really do in a sermon was sit and pray and observe. It was during this time that I fell in love with the German people and the church in particular. Sitting amongst them, not singing at them, I could see the hunger in their faces for something, anything from God. This was met by passivity in other faces and for those I could pray all the more. It became a privilege to covertly come in and out of church praying and then leaving.
Then suddenly, the opportunity presented itself to do worship again one Sunday with a friend. I hesitated at first, thinking that it was only a selfish desire of my own to participate but felt the gentle push of God’s hand. As I stood up there looking out at the people I had been sitting with, God whispered in my ear, “it doesn’t matter if you’re up here, or with them it’s only a matter of vantage point. When you sing on a stage, you pray over them. When you sing from the seats, you pray with them.” In that moment, my entire attitude towards worship was changed. As Matt Redman so aptly puts it, “when the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come.” At the end of the music there are only two people standing there; you and your Master.
Worship is a precious time in a church service. It is the time when you can right your heart before God, remembering who He is as Lord and King and giving Him the praise He so overwhelmingly deserves. Worship is often a time in which He is gracious enough to answer us in our crying out to Him. For me worship is the time when I hear the Lord’s voice most audibly. “I believe that people are able to hear the truth more clearly when accompanied by good music.”- Leah Feldstein
It’s oftentimes frustrating for me that I can’t express what I would like to about the Lord in the German language that I can’t tell about His vanquishing greatness, His splendor and majesty. “How great is our God?” But I can sing about Him. I can sing to Him. I recently heard a worship song with the lyrics “I don’t want to talk about you, like you’re not in the room. I want to look right at you. I want to sing right to you.” I wonder how our worship would be changed if Jesus were to walk into our churches. I wonder which songs we would sing if He were sitting in the front row. I wonder if we would care about sound issues or simple mistakes. Sure, we want an offering fit for a king but what would it be like to be distracted by His glory and not our own? I’m not there yet and won’t pretend to be. As I said, these are just some things on my heart of late. What a merciful God we have whose strength is made perfect in our weaknesses!
“Jehovah is my strength and my song and he is become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14