“Hi. My name is Emily,” I said to the 15 faces staring back at me. “And tonight couldn’t have come at a better time because I’m really struggling with worship.”
A week ago, my Mom texted me asking if I wanted to go with her to this “worship experience.” In all honesty, I tried to think of excuses to not go. I hesitated. I wasn’t sure. I was uncomfortable.
But I said yes.
For the past few weeks (or really, the past few months), I’ve been struggling with the concept of worship—what does it look like, feel like, taste like? Is it confined to Sundays? Is there a certain way you’re supposed to do it? Are you supposed to close your eyes? Lift your hands in the air? Dance in circles? Kneel? Stand stoically? In my mind, I’ve framed “worship” as a song, something we stand and do on Sundays. We arrive at church, someone greets us, we stand, we sing, we sit down, we listen, we might stand and sing again, and then we go on our way.
But lately I just feel like I’m missing something. And, if I’m gut-level honest, I feel awkward.
As a preacher’s kid, I’ve usually found myself sitting on the front row on Sunday mornings. And with that, at times, I just feel like hundreds of eyes are constantly watching me. In this weird sense of self-awareness, I’ve begun shifting my focus during a time when I should only be focused on my Creator. I’ve started to let the hundreds of eye balls affect me, and the way I not only view, but express worship.
worship [wur-ship] noun, verb: reverent honor paid to God; adoring reverence; to feel or render adoration.
Worship is a posture, an expression, a way of living, lending one’s life. For a while, I’ve framed it to be something to “do.” But that’s not the case. Worship is something we are…something I choose to be, a reflection of who or what I adore.
Worship is adoration.
It’s never been about a song, raising your hands, closing your eyes, or even just standing still. It’s about what you adore. Worship isn’t a Sunday ritual, it’s a minute-by-minute decision. Every minute we choose something to adore and express reverence for that thing or person. If I choose to adore coffee, I go crazy until I can get my hands on a fresh cup of French Press. If I choose to adore my career, I’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve what I consider corporate success. If I choose to adore the eye balls in the seats behind me on Sundays, I focus all of my attention and energy on what I perceive their opinion of me is.
Worship is where you choose to set your affection.
In my misunderstanding and totally inside-the-box framing of worship, I stepped into this environment called a “Worship Barn” last night. I sat next to 15 other women facing different seasons and different decisions and listened to a precious woman share her heart on worship and the reality that it’s ok to not be ok. And then, she turned on some worship music and asked us to stand. She didn’t tell us to do anything. Just stand and express what you feel. God moved. He began this excavation of my heart that only He could do. He began re-framing the way I see this thing called worship. In those few minutes, God clearly spoke James 4v10 into the chambers of my heart: “Get on your knees before the Master.” I hesitated. And this is the dialogue that literally began going through my mind:
That’s a nice word, God. Thanks for that.
No, Emily. Get on your knees before the Master.
I don’t really want to kneel down in front of these women I’ve never met before. I mean, God, I literally just told them I struggle with worship…so this would totally draw eye balls to me and I do not want that!
Emily, right now you can break the chain. You can turn a corner. But you must do this now. Get on your knees.
As I knelt, I instantly felt this release, this sense of “it’s ok to not be ok.” Tears began rolling down my cheeks as I felt the presence of my Savior, I felt a deep adoration for this God who knows me and loves me exactly as I am. I felt the shift in what worship means…I stopped adoring the eye balls and began adoring the One who made all of those eye balls in the first place.
The next several hours seem like somewhat of a blur. I picked up paint brushes and painted. I thought about the words of James 4v10 and what comes after the simple nudge God spoke into my life—Get on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll ever get on your feet. And you know what is just so cool about all of this? In the past few months, as big decisions have come my way, James 4v10 has continually been a word at the fore-front of my mind, and God has brought me down on my knees (literally) to hear what He is trying to say. The fact that He brought James 4v10 to my mind in the Worship Barn collided obedience and worship for me. As I walk in obedience to God, I am worshipping Him. If worship is an act of adoration, obedience is most definitely the launching pad.
As the night drew to a close, one woman pulled me aside and told me what she saw not only in what I had painted, but what she saw in my life. I used a lot of yellow (a color I’ve been obsessed with lately!) and she said, “Emily, that yellow represents God’s glory all over your life. Honey, you’ve got the spirit of Esther in you. You’re going to have to walk into some big palaces straight to the king’s throne and God’s glory is going with you. He is all over you.” I looked back into her eyes and was just utterly amazed at how God chose to step in and speak in ways that are just louder than audible ways. All I could feel was adoration…pure, satisfied adoration.
The Worship Barn leaders hand-picked a bookmark with words on it for each woman. When I received mine, I couldn’t help but smile. In one more way, God confirmed what He’s doing in this heart of mine, in this season of re-framing the way I view things. Literally—I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to!—my card said this: God is excavating your heart. And you know what’s even more over-the-top incredible? Those two Worship Barn leaders told me that 24 hours prior to this whole experience they knew that was the word I needed to hear…that confirming nudge that it’s ok to not be ok and allow God to step in an re-frame this heart of mine.
Worship is adoration…the place you choose to set your affection. It’s not something we do. It’s an outpouring of who we are.