This thought process began a couple of years ago when I was sitting with a group of parents and teens on a Sunday night. The youth minister was having a devotional to kick off the summer activities. At one point, we sang “This is How We Overcome” by Reuben Morgan. A key line is:
He has turned my mourning into dancing!
He has turned my sorrow into joy!
The more I looked around the room, the more disturbed I became. NO ONE was smiling. No one seemed happy at all. Here we were singing about how God had made us so happy, and our faces were giving off the opposite message. Were we lying to God? Or, were we just not paying attention to what we were singing?
I wasn’t sure then, and I’m still not sure.
That experience got me thinking about our worship. How many times do we sing about things that we just simply don’t mean? Or, maybe we mean them, but we’ve really turned them into metaphors.
What is a metaphor? It is a figure of speech that is applied to something that it does not literally represent in order to reflect a resemblance. It becomes a word picture that describes something else. For example: “Her face shone like the sun.”
I think we have taken acts of worship and have literally made them metaphors of what we think is going on in our hearts. We have suppressed outward obvious worship, and have begun to rely on what we “think” about those things.
“I feel that way, so I don’t need to actually do it.”
Maybe I’ll try that with the IRS. “I felt like I paid my taxes, so I don’t think I really need to do it.”
So, are you interested in some examples? Here you go….
In the last three weeks we have sung three different songs that I think illustrate my point.
First, we sang a song that included a line about “lifting holy hands to God.” That phrase was used several times. In an audience of over 200 people, maybe three or four were actually doing it. I hesitated at first. I’ve been brought up in this suppressed worship atmosphere and I have a hard time breaking out. But, I had to deal with it. How can I sing about it if I’m not willing to do it? So, reluctantly, I raised my hands. It felt so awkward….but, it also felt more honest.
Secondly, we sang a song that encouraged the church to “Shout Hallelujah!” Over and over, it said to “Shout Hallelujah!”
Shout Hallelujah to the Lord!
Hallelujah literally means to praise Jehovah.
We sing other songs that repeat “Praise Him. Praise Him.”
But, do we ever really do that? To praise someone is to tell them about all the wonderful things they do, all the wonderful things they are, all the features they have that mean so much to us. It would be weird if I walked up to my daughter and only said: “I praise you.” However, if I told her how beautiful she was, or how proud I am of her talents and abilities, then I have actually praised her.
So, we sing about praising God, but how often do we actually do that? What are His features, His qualities, His wonders that mean so much to you? Tell Him about it. Tell others about Him.
On top of that, the song was encouraging the church to actually SHOUT HALLELUJAH! I wonder what would happen; what people’s reactions would be, if some folks actually started doing that. “Hallelujah!”
Lastly, we sang the song “Here I Am to Worship” by Chris Tomlin. One of the key phrases is:
Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you’re my God
Here I am to bow down?
Really? Bow down? Actually get down on our knees and physically humble ourselves before God? Bow before the Great I Am? Really?
We sing it. What if we actually did it? If Tim Tebow can do it in the end zone, surely we can do it in church. When Tim does it, the media makes it all about him…Tebowing. However, I’m sure he would agree that it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with God. It is funny how physically humbling our bodies can actually enhance the humility of our hearts.
One of these days, it will be my turn to again lead the congregation I serve in prayer. I’ll get my turn in wording a “Shepherd’s Prayer.” When it comes around again, there’s a better than average chance that I’m going to give the church an opportunity to join me in a little physical humility.
Get ready. It’s coming.
So, how about you? Is your worship only a metaphor? Are the words you sing only a representative of what you hide inside, or are you actually living out the words?
Maybe you could join me in my awkward attempt to be honest, making the words I sing synchronize with the actions I perform. If so, then I say: HALLELUJAH!