We don’t hear the word, “worship,” very often in culture today. I think it makes us squirm a little. I mean, it’s so…churchy. So religious.
And then there’s the problem of singing with raised hands.
You know what I’m talking about.
I mean, what’s that all about? It’s weird, right? I’ve been a church-going Christian my entire life and even I think it’s weird. Where, in any other setting or circumstance besides church, do people come together to sing songs with their hands in the air?
Well…a concert, I suppose. But still—it’s weird.
I bring this up because I wrote recently that worship is the one thing that connects me with what really matters in life. And because that is a pretty powerful statement, I thought I should elaborate.
First off, when I say “worship,” I’m not referring to singing. I do not get up every morning before dawn, go into a quiet room, close the door, and sing songs with my eyes closed and my hands lifted high.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not what I’m talking about.
Rather, for me, worship is more about turning my mind and heart toward God. It starts when I shift the focus off of me and onto him, and then acknowledge that he’s the boss, not me. Oh, and also that he’s much cooler than me and that I want to be his friend and hear what he’s thinking and follow him everywhere he goes.
In other words, it’s when I become like a teenage girl with a crush. I get needy. It’s embarrassing.
It hasn’t always been this way. When I was younger, worship felt a lot more awkward. Like first-date-awkward. I didn’t know what to do or say. I tried copying what other people were doing. I sang songs. I lifted my hands up high.
It went on like this for some time.
Am I doing this right? I would ask myself. It felt uncomfortable. Foreign. Weird.
But somewhere along the way foreign was replaced by familiar. I realized one day that worship had become second-nature; that every day was a process of me turning to God and acknowledging him, getting distracted, turning back, getting distracted, turning back again, etc.
In those moments when I would turn to him, my perspective would briefly clear. I’d see the big picture. I’d feel peace. I’d remember what really matters.
If you’ve ever experienced a moment like this—when something otherworldly breaks through your mundane moment—you know what I’m talking about. It feels like nostalgia, a brief time when things are…better. Bigger somehow. Different.
That’s worship. Or, at least that’s what it is for me.
So…how did I move from it being awkward to familiar? Here’s how:
1. I started setting aside a portion of time in every day for God. Sometimes it was 3 minutes, sometimes it was 3 hours. But it was time when I wasn’t doing anything else. Eventually it became easier to connect to him in the midst of doing other stuff, but at first I needed the dedicated stillness. Even today I find that nothing beats it.
2. During this dedicated time, I would talk to him. I discovered that a journal was really helpful for me during these conversations, so I would “talk” by writing down my thoughts and feelings. At first I followed a bit of formula, writing things that I’d heard other people say, or things I thought I should say. Eventually, though, as I got more comfortable, I just started talking to him naturally and from my heart.
3. In addition to journaling, I would also save at least some time for listening. This was the hardest part at first, because it felt really strange. There were lots of uncomfortable pauses of silence–like talking to the air and expecting it to answer back. And even when I thought maybe I’d heard him say something, I’d second-guess myself and argue that it was just my own thoughts. Again, a journal was really helpful here. I wrote down what I thought I heard and eventually the difference between his voice and my thoughts got clearer. I can’t explain how—it just did.
I did these three things again and again, year after year. And of course I did other stuff, too, like read the Bible and attend church and pray with others. And I experienced—and still experience—worship during all of them. But nothing helped more than those three practices I listed above.
I’d never presume to prescribe a process or formula for worship, nor define it for others. In sharing this, I only want to paint a picture of how it’s looked for me. Even then, words don’t do it justice. So I won’t tell you how to worship.
All I can say is FIND IT.
Find worship. Find as much of it as you can. Fill your day with it as much as you can.
It’s the thing that matters. More than all the rest.