Greeting to all! As Ali and I were driving through Lafayette the other night heading home from a spontaneous date night this really attractive billboard caught my eye. On the bottom there was silhouettes of what appeared to be people in worship with hands raised and the silhouettes where outlined on the top with this really bright green color and the words Live Love Worship. As I drove to work the next morning that billboard popped back into my head and then scenes from worship events that I had been to over the years.. All the scenes were beautiful, the lighting was perfect, the stages were elaborately decorated, and the sound was done just right. All of this to create a perfect environment to worship our God.
The more I allowed my mind to journey into these various events and the feelings associated with them I began to think that my life does not even remotely resemble the beauty that flows out of those nights. Lately, I have felt so distant from God and whenever I pray it surely does not feel like any of these Spirit filled occasions. When I pray it feels dry and void of even words, believe it or not, but I continue to sludge through these valleys of prayer in search of refreshment. I began to wonder if I had not unknowingly conditioned myself to think that worship has to be “pretty,” that it must have the right “sound,” that it needs to be “inspired,” and have the perfect “words.” I thought to myself, that right now, my life and my prayer seems “ugly.” It doesn’t look like anything a “Good Christian’s” life “should” look like, even under the circumstances I find myself.
That day I stopped by one of my closest brother’s offices. Ironically, He runs a very successful ministry putting on nights of teaching and worship. His nights are always first class, they really create an environment which enables people to enter into worship through song, scripture, and the Eucharist. I felt like I could possibly be insulting what he is called to do but at the same time we are close enough that I felt like I could freely share these thoughts that had been flowing through my heart all day. I explained to him that as I was having these thoughts about worship the image of a bloodied crucified Christ kept coming into my heart and how “ugly” that scene must have been. He went on to say that we have to be authentic that our lives are not always as neat as a worship event. He shared a story with me about an encounter he had with an older prominent couple in the town that he works in. One of their children was having some personal struggles and ended up needing to get professional help and it had all been kept real hush hush. He ran into them at a gathering and asked them how they were doing, him knowing what was going on with their child, and they responded with some canned “good Christian” response and he thought to himself, “your lying to me.”
As a Christias we often feel that we have to hide behind our fig leaves just as Adam and Eve covered themselves out of their own embarrassment. These feelings are even more pronounced by the times that we live in when everything has to “look” perfect. I think even as a Church we have in someway begun to fall into the trap of thinking and unknowingly teaching that worship looks a certain way. Yet, if we are to really examine the Life of Christ, it didn’t look anything like that, it was real, it was raw, and the finale was one of the ugliest things that this world has ever seen, But guess what? That magnificent cross, was beautifully ugly, it was a physical embodiment of everything that had and would happen in this world. It was our Christ who willingly, honestly, and OPENLY took on the ugliness of this world and made the eternal statement, “you don’t have hide anymore.” I feel like He was saying to all of us, bring your ugliness to me, bring it out in the open, and I will make it beautiful. Unfortunately what happens is we try to hide our ugliness, dress up our ugliness, or just down right deny that it is even there, because if we are honest with ourselves we do not feel that our life is appropriate for the dressed up worship services that we attend or that our life is in and of itself worship.
Please understand what I am saying, I am in not in anyway putting down these incredible nights of worship, heck I love them as much as the guy. What I am saying is that worship is not a canned action. What I am saying is that worship is does not always feel good. What I am saying is that worship is not always pretty. Worship IS our life and I don’t know about you but my life is not always, not even most of the time, pretty and you know what, Christ’s life wasn’t either. His life was filled with rejection, disappointment, and in the world’s eyes, failure. The question that my heart asks is, why should I not feel like these valleys are worship? I had wondered the other day if the humanity of Christ thought to Himself as He hung on the Cross, “Father, I hope I am doing this right because this does not look like any Jewish sacrifice I have ever seen,” That is exactly how I feel right now. I feel like my prayer is often, God, I hope I am doing this right because this is not the kind of worship that I have experienced before. I desire a transformation to take place in my heart that will enable me to realize that my life is worship, the good, the bad, and yes, even the beautifully ugly.