I can still feel the hard wood pews, the cold floor, hear the sound of violin, cello and guitar, see my sweet friends around me. Monday Night Worship was awesome. A group of young musicians playing and leading the rest of us in songs of praise to God, it still is one of my favorite memories from my years at Bible college. This night, though, stands out among the rest. Chronic pain was relatively new for me, and as we sang I was enduring some pretty significant pain. I remember trying so hard to ignore it. I felt so guilty that I couldn't concentrate on God alone without my mind being conscious of the pain my body was feeling. I am so mad at myself: why couldn't I be holier, why was my mind unable to block out the pain, God deserved to be my entire focus.
This is a picture that has replayed over the years through many church services, chapel services, even years of leading worship myself with youth ministry and on our home worship team, as well as times alone with God. I remember being so embarrassed when our worship leader would bring out a tall stool so that I could sit on it while we practiced singing because I couldn't stand up to sing. Gradually, I learned that it wasn't bad to have health issues - that it wasn't bad to be seen as real even if that meant that I sometimes had to sit on a stool to sing. I was forced to be humble (is that even possible?) enough to admit that I couldn't stand to sing. But somewhere inside I felt guilty for not being able to be free from my physical pain to worship* God unhindered, and unconscious of anything other than HIM.
Tonight I was at church and I realized something. If God has allowed me to have physical pain, than He must be able to be worshipped through the pain. I know I have said that God can be worshipped through anything even by someone lying in a hospital bed unable to speak or think clearly. But tonight I really grasped the fact that even though my pain might be inescapable - I am unable to will my mind to NOT notice my physical state, God can be worshipped even because of the pain I am having. I always thought that to really worship I have to be in a kind of daze where the only thing I am conscious of is God alone. I have had times where that was true - but they are rare for me. Maybe in choosing to worship and sing words that are true of God even when pain is inescapable - maybe - no definitely God is worshipped no less than the times when all my mind feels is God alone.
It's kind of like another thing I used to think about worship. I used to think that if my mind knew that anyone else was around me that I wasn't really worshipping God. Now, I totally agree that we shouldn't be distracted by the people around us, when we are in a corporate worship setting sometimes the people around us are part of our worship! When I first began leading by singing on the worship team I remember thinking that I couldn't possibly worship with my eyes open because if I noticed that there were people facing me I couldn't possible be worshipping God. Through the years I began to be drawn even more to the throne of God in praise when I did open my eyes because I felt the true worship of people I loved and seeing a crowd of people focused on singing the truths of who God is, and giving themselves fully to Him brought my heart to a beautiful place of worship. I still love to close my eyes and focus on God alone - but that is not the only way I worship during a church service. When God brought my sweet Husband to me another layer of worship emerged. Sometimes during worship he or I will reach our hand out to hold the other's hand and in that moment it brings my heart to an amazing place where my Husband and I are one worshipping God together while conscious of each other and our shared trust and love of God.
I don't want to limit the big God I adore. He can use things we think are useless or a distraction to even deepen our love and our worship of Him.
*my use of the word worship in this post is referring to corporate times of singing etc. - worship is so much more than only those times!