Typing away at my words, the endless words, and listening, half-heartedly, to a little spontaneous worship from Jeremy Riddle and Stephanie Gretzinger. I’m not even sure how it got turned on in another tab on my computer, but I didn’t turn it off. I just let the words flow over me. Words about “worthy” and “holy” and “good” given up to a God who created the world and knows us personally. But for the hundredth time I wondered how a God like that would really feel about worship. I mean, if he’s really a dad, a best friend, a lover . . . does he want to be worshiped? Do any of us as moms, dads, best friends, and lovers wish for our friends, children and lovers to worship us?? It’s a strange kind of Being that would claim to be intimate with us and yet demand, crave or even enjoy our worship.
One of the many things that does not make sense to be me about this church I sometimes attend, about this religion I sometimes belong to.
And then, I shift more of my attention to the music as I hear a pregnant pause, a shift in energy. Now Stephanie is humming and singing, all her energy focused into her microphone and her body, tensed in the Presence of something we cannot see, we cannot name but we can feel it, yes we can. Even me. Jaded, cynical, not-into-it me.
And she comes out with the words, softly at first, then louder and finally at the very top of her voice. “There’s a line and we’ve crossed it. Some would say that we’ve lost it. But we’ve found our joy. It’s all in knowing You. It’s all in loving You.”
And I find myself quiet in front of my computer screen, hands stilled, shaking slightly, tears running down my cheeks, as I sense the Divine, this Presence that is bigger than me, yet kinder too. That is safer and stronger and gentler than anything else I know. This Presence that all the religious words of all the previous songs so FAIL to capture. This Being that is worthy, yes. And with trembling fingers I switch tabs and look up the etymology of the word worship and I find, as I half-remembered, that all that worship really means is that we acknowledge the worth of another. That’s what it was originally all about. That’s all. Not bowing down. Not endless praise. Not ceaseless adoration. It was turning our attention to a Divine Presence that we cannot see and acknowledging that Presence in our lives.
Somewhere, buried beneath all of our jargon and our rituals, scattered amidst our preoccupations and our fears, is the Divine. And to know and love this Divine is to become a whole new kind of brave. But it’s not a brave meant to call upon us to bow deeper and scrape lower, to sing longer and louder. No, this Presence is meant to call us to lives lived outside and beyond the lines. Lives where we love deeper and longer and louder than most people are capable of. Lives that are safe in the dangerous places. Because we are held and we are known by the Divine. And because we hold and we know the Divine too.
The principle that should be behind all of that glittery, neat, crazy, serious, piano, organ, drum and guitar stuff that we call worship is just this: a simple acknowledgement that the Divine is here, that we are loved and that we choose to love back. That is all. That is really really all.