I always thought I knew what worship was. But this past year has changed everything I thought I knew.
For me, worship has always meant singing. Music touches a place in my soul and brings with it an emotional response. Singing is how I express my praise.
Or, rather, it was. Almost a year ago I lost my voice. I lost my ability to worship as well. I was angry and seething with bitterness. I would stand in the service while the congregation sang around me and sob.
I lashed out at God, How am I supposed to praise you when it sounds so terrible?!
God asked me, Do you sing because you love Me or because it sounds pretty?
I was struck. I had never realized how much my worship depended on the quality of my voice, how much pride was hidden in the talent God had gifted to me. I never realized how deep the rut ran that I had become stuck in. Because I focused so much on music and that particular outlet of worship, I didn't know how to worship any other way.
That one incident has sparked a journey for me. A journey to discover what true worship is and what it is not.
My husband and I are members of a Baptist church that we love. He teases me and calls me a closet Pentecostal because sometimes I long for loud rejoicing. I long for uplifted hands and the sounds of people praising the Lord in their prayer language. My other half finds those styles of worship strange to say the least. He doesn't doubt their validity or honesty, he just doesn't praise that way.
On the other end of the spectrum I have also been learning about more reverent rituals and services like Ash Wednesday, Lent and the life of Benedictine monks. I am fascinated by the focus and worship found in quietness.
I have begun to realize just how multi-faceted worship is. It isn't confined to music and it isn't something that can be stuffed into a neat little package. No single denomination has cornered the market on "proper worship." God is not more pleased or less pleased with our adoration of Him in its different forms.
True worship is a kaleidoscope of every color in the spectrum that combine to make one shining, brilliant white! Each form of worship, whether it be exuberant or reverent, is a part of that whole. And just as we are dazzled to watch the colors in a kaleidoscope roll and change to make new designs, we could (if we let ourselves) be just as awe inspired when it comes to different kinds of worship.
I can crank up Skillet and praise the Lord with a "joyful noise" or I can weep at the beauty and depth of an old Baptist hymn. Both are true. Both are correct. And maybe Skillet isn't your cup of tea. That's okay! It's still a part of the same whole.
The same God that paints a different masterpiece in the sky every morning and evening has imparted to us the same creative spirit. That creativity craves different outlets and has a need to be expressed as well as a need to be experienced. When it comes to worship, while here on earth, it will look different because we are all different. It will be diverse because we interpret God differently.
When we get to heaven, I don't believe we will be divided by worship preference. We will not find a single Baptist hymnal or Christ Tomlin song (gasp!). We will be singing, shouting, chanting, repeating the same song...a NEW song! A song shaped by the innermost part of our being and formed in complete understanding of the Almighty God as we stand in His presence and praise Him!
And it will be reverent and holy. It will be joyous and jubilant. It will be complete and perfect. It will be all the parts finally coming together and making the perfect whole!
"Then I heard the sound of massed choirs, the sound of a mighty cataract, the sound of strong thunder: 'Hallelujah! The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong!
Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give him the glory! The Marriage of the Lamb has come; his Wife has made herself ready'"