Mine was not a huggy family. We didn’t slap people on the back, or stand up and shout at hockey games, or let anyone see us cry. And we were definitely not gushy. Words of affection were neatly tucked inside greeting cards and shared only at the appropriate times. Dancing was forbidden; even toe-tapping was unseemly in church, and laughter was contained in decently-and-in-order decorum.
And yet there was love, and affection, and enthusiasm, and sorrow, and always a deep emotional connection with music. We just didn’t express it physically. Blame on culture, or a fear of vulnerability, I don’t know, but being demonstrative does not come naturally to me. I’ve had to work at it. Music has been my main vehicle for expressing that which I cannot show, but when I lost my voice due to health problems, so many feelings became stuck inside me. That’s when I turned to art and writing.
Someone asked me recently how I plan to increase my worship of God. We agreed that worship can easily become a duty or routine without involving our whole hearts and requires a conscious effort to enlarge our expression. Can I admit a bit of panic? I assumed this meant they expected me to step out of my English stiff-upper-lip, German resolve, and Scottish stoicism and make myself do something horribly uncomfortable, like perform cartwheels in the aisle or give eloquent impromptu prayer speeches in Shakespearean English over a microphone.
I understand the importance of praise and the way it causes us to focus on God and his character. It’s not that He is a narcissistic megalomaniac needing constant approval and emotional boosting before He can get around to answering our requests. He is the source of love and only by spending time looking to the author and finisher of our faith can we ever hope to live in the power of that love. Worship makes us conscious of His Presence. I get it. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by His love and goodness and I run out of words. How many times can you say Praise the Lord or Hallelujah or Glory before the words lose meaning like gum that has been chewed for hours loses its flavour? Giving physical expression by raising hands, or bowing or kneeling -or doing cartwheels- makes perfect sense, for those who have not divorced this part of themselves. Until those actions become flavourless routine, as well.
It was while on this journey that I felt Him say something else about worship. Jesus repeated the scripture in Isaiah that talks about praise being on people’s lips while their hearts were far away. He was not impressed. He also said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” At this point we often make assumptions about what’s on the list of commandments so we can check them off. But what are His commandments?
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
I like the music of the Piano Guys. I came across this video the other day which combines Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, with Extreme’s More Than Words. The song grabbed my attention and answered my question about how to increase my worship. I know the Extreme song referred to a physical expression of love between two people but there was a deeper meaning for me. The old marriage vows used to include the promise, “With my body I thee worship.” That could mean sexual affection or it could mean getting off the couch to make a cup of tea -or move the couch for the loved one. At the heart of this vow is the importance act of paying attention and listening to the desires of the other. This is also called “worship.”
For me that has meant a season of coming aside and learning to listen to His voice, even though that action has not made sense to others. It has meant dropping involvement a lot of activities which I always assumed to be good, to obey and follow Him to a place of solitude and quiet where I can learn to separate His voice from all the others. For other people, following Him might mean pouring themselves into a construction project. or barrel racing – or doing cartwheels in the aisle. Maybe that will be part of my expression someday too, but for now I hear Him say:
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
‘Cause I’d already know