When Worship Keeps You From God

I have deceived myself into believing that I love to worship.

Man-Driving-AloneThis epiphany has arrived (and re-arrived) in my car. Given the choice to drive somewhere with friends or alone, I will often reveal my introverted portions by selecting solo. One of my simple pleasures is to sing along with a worship album, transforming my little Pontiac into a 21st-century Tabernacle on wheels.

When Worship Isn’t

On one particular drive, it dawned on me that the song I was singing was authentically and deeply prayerful. However, a second dawning followed: Minus the music of that moment, I found it very difficult to pray.  This is coming from a guy who thinks driving alone is one of the best available prayer times. This is also coming from a guy who believes that deep and personal interaction with God is essential to spiritual transformation. This is even coming from a guy who, on a significant level, enjoys that level of interaction with the One I call Father and Master.

hard-to-pray1But on that evening, silence made me squirm. I realized that I was wielding worship as a wand to make me–the real me–disappear.  The music was my mask, and the harmonies were my hiding place.

What do you do when worship is keeping you from God?

You strip.

Strip down the worship–it’s got too many layers.

large_19_agent_orangeTraveling Vietnam in 2008, we were amazed to see the lingering impact of Agent Orange. Most notably, the human toll of this wartime herbicide is seen in lingering birth defects and health damage, now five decades down the road. Geographically, it is observable by the obvious lines in the forests where all previous growth was killed off in the deforesting attempts at flushing fighters from their lush cover.

Beneath the ugliness of chemical warfare, there is a sound strategy here: Strip off the layers, and hiding becomes hard.

If your worship–whatever its form–has created enough nooks and crannies that vulnerability and honesty can be easily avoided, it’s time to strip down your worship. It has become a stumbling block.

And that’s the easy step. Step two…

Strip down the worshiper–he’s got too many layers.

Even more key than your habits is your heart, though be aware that you may need to hit your outer expressions in order to target your inner essence.

Somehow unguarded openness needs to be fostered. For many, this is where journaling becomes a powerful habit. Some will even say, “I wasn’t actually sure what I felt until I started moving my pen.” That’s a writer’s way of saying, “I know a way to strip myself down.”

Writer or not, do you have a way of unveiling yourself?

It might involve visiting with a mentor or trusted friend–somewhere where hard questions are asked and honest statements are made. It might be through music or solitude or exercise or gardening. I see few limits on method, but a means is mandatory. ChangeMinus some thought here, the average person will merely move with the worship currents of assemblies or masses. While important, these frequently fail to strip us down to a place where life-altering intimacy with our Maker unfolds.

And if worship isn’t changing you, it’s time to change your worship.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever felt the limitations of your worship to connect you with God? What do you do to create or foster authentic interaction with God? How do you combat the inclination to hide or limit vulnerability?

Leave a reply–your input betters this post!

 

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2 thoughts on “When Worship Keeps You From God

  1. Stripping away is important from time to time. But I wonder if naked is always the goal? Sometimes, my props are meaningful and helpful. Sometimes, I actually wish for more of them. Not to hide in (although that probably happens), but to anchor me more securely. A few clothes to feel comfortable in. Sometimes, I think a rosary would be a nice thing to pray with. Nakedness gets uncomfortable after a while. Just some things I’ve been thinking about…

    Love your thoughtful words, Jason. Thank you for them.

    • Great thought Janelle. I’m picturing the swinging pendulum within our conversation. My epiphany was birthed in a moment of conviction when I recognized that I was seriously struggling to pray without someone else’s words (and tune) in my mouth. That unnerved me.

      That said, I’m a firm believer in the value of prayer books and liturgical forms, as they frequently take us (me) places we wouldn’t otherwise reach. They prompt us to stand up and voice desires that our own minds might not perceive OR that our own mouths may struggle to verbalize.

      I’m with you there: Naked skeleton-less amoebas we need not be. Frames are good. But if you find yourself one day sucking in your soul’s gut to hide behind the scaffolding, then you’ll know: “Jason does this sometimes. He said so.”

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