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.