I think we need to get one thing straight: demonstrative worship – and by that, I mean raising your hands, dancing, shouting, jumping, and all the accoutrements associated with Charismatic, Pentecostal, Full Gospel, or whatever other type of worship – does not make one more spiritual than the non-jumper, hand-waver, dancer . . . you get the point. For those of us who attend the above-mentioned type of churches, because we are encouraged to be “free” in worship, we might get the mistaken idea that the “freer” you are somehow translates into being a better Christian. Hey, I have no issue with a worship style preference or cultural tradition. I say to each her own. But, as the young folks say, “don’t get it twisted” – all that sweating and shouting isn’t winning you extra brownie points in heaven. Truthfully, I have been in services where people have been pressured to perform by overzealous worship leaders who gauge their own effectiveness (read “anointing”) by the emotional response of the audience. How utterly ridiculous. I mean, really, you don’t have to observe people very long to know that being able to exhibit appropriate church behaviors in whatever religious setting does not equate to integrity, character, a vibrant prayer life, personal Bible study, and being an active witness. These really are far better barometers of spirituality. So then, what’s all the hype about praise?
I tend to be by nature reserved. I am naturally an introvert. I am reflective and extremely sensitive. When I used to go out dancing, I was always self-conscious (probably because I was never really any good), unlike my sister who was loud and danced with gusto. Guess who is more inclined on Sundays to “throw her hands in the air and wave ’em like she just don’t care”? So then imagine what happened when in the midst of praise and worship I took off running around the church?
Let me pause here and place my life in context. I was recovering from the lowest point in my personal and spiritual life. For months prior, I was in such a state of depression that I purposely arrived at church just in time to hear the message and left before the benediction so that I would miss praise and worship and not have to talk to anyone when church was over. The idea of sitting through praise and worship was enough to drive me over the edge. It just felt too hypocritical. But, in time, with the support of my family, I started the journey of walking through the darkness. I didn’t feel God’s presence, but stepping over my doubts, I kept walking, trusting in the Word of the Invisible God.
On this particular Sunday morning, my brother, Pastor Paul, was leading the praise and worship service. I forget now what he said, but it resonated with me. And I took a step of faith and raised my hands and started praising God out loud. I told God how much I loved Him. I told Him that He was faithful and good. I told Him that I trusted Him, and soon the crowd was gone. (This brings tears to my eyes as I type this.) It was just God and me. And His presence, which I felt had eluded me so for so long, was real. I experienced His joy, healing and love wash over me, and I wasn’t just praising God, I was shouting. I couldn’t contain myself, and I don’t know when it happened, but, before I knew it, I was running. As if from another planet, I heard my brother say something like, “Well, the Spirit of God must be here because this is a first.”
In the next post, I will write about what happened next. In the meantime, I’m going to shut down this computer and get my praise on!