I remember it so distinctly. I was at a conference that my church puts on yearly, in different cities around the world. I had flown in to this particular city to serve on team, the people around me, unfamiliar. Opening night I was stood at the back of one section and as the lights dimmed for the beginning of worship and Taya’s familiar voice filled the arena, I heard someone excitedly whisper, “oh, here it is, it’s THE SONG”.
“You call me out upon the waters…The great unknown where feet may fail…”
They were so excited about hearing this song that was sweeping the nation, in churches and radio, in person! And, to be completely honest I was sort of annoyed. Did they not understand that yes, this song was beautiful and Taya slays it, but it’s so much more.
“And I will call upon Your name…And keep my eyes above the waves…When oceans rise…My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine…”
Worship is personal, so I asked myself why it bothered me. I mean, who am I to judge? But, it was that moment I realised that it was the Holy Spirit gently making me aware of how often I sing songs in church, that barely touch my lips, let alone my heart.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…Let me walk upon the waters…Wherever You would call me…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Saviour…”
That was October 2014. I was officially graduating from my MSc in a couple weeks and soon to start a new job (I didn’t know I was hired yet, and nor did I know that 2015 was going to be one of the most blessed, fun, horrible, tumultuous years of my life). But that night I decided that if I was going to worship, I would do it with all my heart. That I would change the way I worshipped. If I was going to lead people in worship then I had to lead myself first in the way I worshipped.
So, I gave myself a bit of a rule. If I wasn’t in “the mood” to worship, I would stop, pray and refocus, as much as I needed, to keep my heart continually focused and in the right place. I would sing because I meant it, I would praise because He deserves to be praised. I would worship because I am a thankful. I wouldn’t sing words, I would sing prayers. Practically speaking I also listened to more worship music than I have ever listened to. I changed my alarms to worship music to remind me to start the day thankful and appreciative. I took moments, turned off all distractions, put on songs like “It is Well” or “We Dance” and literally stood, sat, danced…I let myself be romanced. (no, not in that freakish “I am dating Jesus” way, but in the allow-the-Holy-Spirit-To-wash-over-You kind of romanced.
Yea, so that’s not as easy as it sounds. Like any habit in your life it takes a lot of practice and discipline. A lot.
It’s crazy. I wish I could say that this conviction brought me into some existential, blissful existence, but if you remember, a couple of paragraphs up I mentioned that 2015 wasn’t so hot.
You see, when you prayerfully sing “I will call upon Your name…Keep my eyes above the waves…My soul will rest in Your embrace…I am Yours and You are mine…” God tests you. And tested over and over again I was. And over and over again I vowed to keep my promise to practice this new habit.
And thus began an aspect of 2015 that I haven’t shared with anyone. I guess I never felt ready or wasn’t sure, or maybe it’s that it’s still a daily practice that I haven’t perfected. Much like my commitment to going to the gym 6 days a week. I know it shows results, but it doesn’t mean I am always consistent.
Full disclosure: My nearest and dearest will know that I have had times where I was still a wreck and worried, fretted, cried, but it was a lot less than other trying times in my life.
So, before this post ends I will share what my year of worshipping prayerfully brought to me and my relationship with God.
Peace. When my heart was continually focused on His promises, Who God is, on worshipping Him, I didn’t have space to worry.
Hope. When I sang words like “My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine” I was reminded of all the times that He carried me, blessed me, moved my life forward even when I was less than deserving.
Joy. “Your grace abounds in deepest waters…Your sovereign hand…Will be my guide” When I reminded myself, over and over again, that His grace abounds, that I am saved and made free, I could remain joyful in times of sorrow and pain, even when the world felt like it was collapsing around me.
Patience. When I couldn’t see my next steps, I sang “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me…You’ve never failed and You won’t start now…” I reminded myself of all the times before that He held me up.
Finally, Closer. You know that God only wants the best for you? And that whole “be careful what you pray for?” Ya well when you pray “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Savior…” HE ACTUALLY DOES IT. And that’s just one example. I began to realise that the more I prayed prayers that taught me to seek God, to seek the characteristics of Christ that would lead me into deeper, closer relationship with Him, it truly infiltrated all areas of my life. Yeah, a lot of it really hurt, but it was beautiful when the words I once sang as prayers of a desired relationship, became words that described my relationship with God.
And to be honest, it simply brought honesty back into my life and relationship with God. Worship isn’t always an idealistic, focused time with God. Just this Sunday my blood sugar was so low, my mind was elsewhere and worship was okay. It took a LOT of effort to focus. A year ago I would have gone through the motions and left. Instead I reminded myself why I was there, WHO I was worshipping and refocused. I think it’s what they call conviction (wink wink). It’s not about guilt, you can’t build a relationship out of guilt, it’s about an honest, no holds barred, sincere relationship with God.
And dang it’s amazing.