Worship Music–What Gets Your Hands in the Air?

ReachingWorship music means different things to different people. Personally, I really enjoy the music I grew up with. We sang from Heavenly Highway Hymns and I still love songs like “I’ll Fly Away,” “Rock of Ages,” “Higher Ground,” “In the Garden . . .” Well, I could go on and on. When I sing those songs I’m back in the place where I learned about God while surrounded by the people who loved me best.

But others love more modern praise music and sometimes I’ve even seen them put their hands in the air. This is what’s called: “outside my comfort zone”. Hands in the air? I mean, I might tap my toe, but to actually lift my arms? Where people can see? Give me a quietly moving rendition of “Amazing Grace,” please.

But I believe that so long as worship is authentic and honors God you can’t do it wrong. So last week, at a conference in another town, I stepped out of my box.

We’d just heard a stirring talk about being light in a dark world and were singing a praise song that I actually know and like. Women all around me were raising their arms in worship. I could see reverence on their faces–honor in their eyes. So, before I could talk myself out of it, I lifted my right arm. And I might even have waved it a bit to punctuate a few lines from the song.

And guess what? I didn’t feel conspicuous. I didn’t feel fake. I felt . . . uplifted.

There’s this thing I do when I’m hiking. Every once in a while, on a relatively still day, a little eddy of wind will make a single leaf flutter. It’s striking to see one leaf dancing like that–I like to think it’s God waving. So, when it’s just Thistle and me in the woods, I wave back.

That’s kind of what it felt like to stick my hand up in the air. Like reaching for God’s hand when I know he’s reaching for mine. It’s not meeting him halfway–I can’t reach that far. But it did feel a reaching for something more.

And isn’t that what worship is all about? Reaching for God and drawing him just a little bit closer? Welcoming the blessing of his presence in our lives.

Then I went to church on Sunday. We sang “Blessed Be Your Name.” It’s not necessarily one of my favorites, but it is catchy. And I was kind of getting into it when we hit the chorus:

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

And something welled up in me and I . . . are you ready? I wanted to raise my arms. No, I longed to reach toward heaven and let God know that his name IS glorious to me. And I’m ashamed to say my fear of being conspicuous outweighed my longing. I did lift my hands about shoulder height–I did sing with all my heart–I did reach out. Just not very far. My husband noticed and whispered, “Good for you.”

But I almost cried. Because feeling self-conscious was stronger than my love for God. And I’m sorry for that. I don’t think raising hands or not raising hands is what makes or breaks worship. But I do think when God leans down and holds out his hand, the least I can do is reach back.

Thank goodness he’s the God of second chances.

6 thoughts on “Worship Music–What Gets Your Hands in the Air?

  1. Oh my, I know exactly how you feel!!
    And as my eyes came upon “And something welled up in me and I . . . are you ready? I wanted to raise my arms.” I realized I was holding my right arm and thinking “Be careful! Someone might see!!”.

    In 2009, on a steep hillside outside a little town called Alexandro de Terma, in a remote part of Chuquisaca Department (state) in Bolivia…a solitary gringa with funny hair was observed raising both hands in the air while listening to the Newsboys’ version of In Christ Alone.

    Full out, hands ‘a flailing, deep into my DNA, I was WORSHIPING. It saddens me that I don’t feel safe to do that here.

    And the the song you mentioned? The worship team at the church we attended in Sucre(Bolivia) where our missionaries went, learned it in English, just so the team would have one song we knew how to sing. We all cried.

    1. That is SO beautiful. The sad thing is, I don’t think anyone would really care if we reached out. It’s just that internal voice that constantly frets over what people think. Shut up, voice.

  2. Mom

    Well, now, that made me cry. I too have been uncomfortable with hand lifting. Perhaps because I never thought of it in the concept you presented of reaching for God to wave or hold hands. I’ve always thought “Why don’t I feel as worshipful as the others I saw lifting their hands?” AND I felt intrusive watching them do so. You’ve given me a lot to think about. And, like Jim said, “Good for you.” (And I firmly think that inner voice that makes us fret over what others think is the voice of the devil. Yes, shut up voice!)

  3. Good for you!

    I am definitely NOT a ‘hands-in-the-air’ person. I can’t see meeting God on a mountaintop, literal or figurative – if He’s not present in the mundane, something’s wrong. For me, Jesus seems to be so down-to-earth and just ‘ordinary’, that ‘worship’ becomes a wall.

    But I can see the value in enthusiastic worship,(my wife is that way), and so – Good For YOU!

    1. Exactly–God calls us to worship in different ways. I think the wall comes when we ignore the call. Whether it’s to lift our arms in the air or drop to our knees. Love that he put you and your wife together–complimentary worship styles!

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