I wrote this a couple of months ago, but I knew it wasn’t time yet to post it.
Tonight—yeah. Tonight is the night to post it. Enjoy!
I stand in awe of God every day of my life, that He has changed me so drastically. From the little kid who scowled all the time and hated life and would never break out of my shell, to the one standing off to the side, raising my hands and praising Him with all I am (well almost, because I am in public after all–I mean, ya know, I have to tame all the dancing and hooping and hollering down a tad–just to be respectful of others’ time with Him. 🙂 But just to be ABLE to lift my hands around anyone, is BEYOND amazing to me 🙂 He is sooooo good!!
I saw this today and it was sooooo good, this whole series—this pastor in general is great! But this series is incredible! I think we ALL need this:
Lord, give me strength to Surrender!
I stand praising You in church, my arms raised, stretched out to You, eagerly wanting a touch from You, eagerly desiring Your presence to fill me so fully, so completely.
Yet, there are times, even now that I find myself fighting this battle in my mind—“what does the person next to me / behind me / on the other side of the room think of me raising my hands to my Lord, my God?” “Do I look silly in their eyes?”
And then I find myself battling those thoughts–with more thoughts:
“Do they even care?
Why do I care if they see me,
why do I care if they care? — Isn’t God worthy of ALL my praise?!”
It’s a battle of the mind, and in that moment, I have to stop and ask You, “Lord, take these thoughts from me, please!! Help me to worship You in truth and in honor and in holy reverence—to You alone! Help me, Father, to lift my hands and not be concerned about anything or anyone else.”
I have fought that battle from the time before I was saved. I would look around the room as I am joining in unison with everyone, methodically singing praise songs to You. I would scan the room, and in my heart I held envy toward those that could, so effortlessly, raise their hands to You. But yet, I couldn’t break my hands free from my pockets or my side.
All of a sudden, the hymn book weighed 35 pounds and was somehow super-glued to my hands, so that I couldn’t lift them.
I didn’t comprehend or understand, exactly, what was happening. It was as if I thought “I have to do that to be a Christian? Wow, that’s hard. I can’t do that and look crazy in front of everyone, God! I mean, they don’t look crazy, but I soo would look crazy if I did that! I don’t want everyone to think that I am nuts. But, if I don’t raise my hands, they won’t think that I’m worshiping correctly…” The list of thoughts that assaulted my brain went on and on. “What if they think I’m crazy? What if they don’t think I’m legit? What if they think I look ridiculous?”
I remember crying many days on the way home from church because I didn’t feel I would ever be good enough for You to love me if I couldn’t worship You correctly. And not just because of the raising my hands—but I couldn’t do anything right. Whatever I thought right was. That was before I really knew You. But, I remember thinking “These people are so effortless in raising their hands, it’s so easy for them.” I wanted to—but the desire hadn’t yet reached my heart. It was coming mainly from my head.
Because I thought that was what I was “supposed to do” if I was going to be ‘a good Christian’.
My friend would ask me why I was crying, and I didn’t want to admit that those thoughts plagued me. Those thoughts that I was inadequate, that I was unworthy, that I would never be able to know You because I was not measuring up to all the “good” people in the room that were “good Christians”—in my blinded eyes and way of thinking.
I would think to myself “Why can’t I do that? I want to. I want to be free and uninhibited like they are, I want to raise my hands and not worry about what everyone else around me is thinking. What am I going to do in Heaven? Just stand there? Am I going to bow at His feet, am I going to lift my hands in praise to Him then? I guess maybe so—I mean, He changes us when we get there, so I guess He will make me able somehow to worship Him…..somehow.”
Oh, Father, it is a battle. I’ve been on both sides. But the most freeing feeling in the world is not to be on **either side**, but to be so fully invested and so fully in tune and in love with You, Lord that I don’t even realize there are people in the room—until the song ends and I open my eyes reluctantly, after a moment reflecting with You.
Let me not forget Peter’s warning so that I do not lose heart:
NASB 1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
If I think about it, raising my hands is the ultimate sign of surrender. So I shouldn’t be surprised that the enemy going to try to attack me when I am standing there in full blown worship, pouring my heart out to my Father, my God, to my Deliverer, my Friend, my Lord, Jesus Christ! That is the very moment when I have released every other chain that threatens to hold me down, and the only thing that is getting in between my full devotion, my entire heart poured out before Him, are these thoughts of inadequacy.
What do I combat them with?
Well, how about the knowledge that God says that I am enough inside of Jesus Christ! God Himself sent His One and Only Son, Jesus, to be my (and those who will believe) sacrificial atonement for all the sins we have ever committed or ever will commit. And when I stand there in His presence, more worried about the people around me than I am concerned about Him, I am at that moment committing a sin right there–
Worrying. About. What. Other. People. Think.
There’s a word for that. Idolatry.
Yeah, that’s exactly what that is. It is idolatry when I choose to hold another’s opinion in higher regard than that of my Father, my God. Because when the Spirit inside me is moving me to raise my hands, and at that point, in my flesh I refuse–I am plain and simply resisting–which is a form of rebellion.
In that state, i can experience absolutely no intimacy with my Father. Everything will be shut down and silent–and the music goes on around me. At that point I try my hardest to meld into the middle of the praise, focus intently with my mind and sing the correct words. But that never equates for intimacy with my Lord, my God.
I had to ask myself this: What does it matter what they think?
The reasonable answer we all know is “it doesn’t. It only matters what God thinks.”
I would repeat these words in my head to my Father (possibly 20 times during a song if I had to) while I’m singing, and remind myself that I am not here for anyone other than my Father. I wasn’t even here for me. I am here so that I can pour out my heart to my Father, the Almighty God.
Even though at times my heart burns within me, and I want so badly to break out of this shell, and burst forth praising Him with everything I have, I am yet so afraid to step outside of my comfort zone and raise my hands for fear of ridicule. That is when I know that I am under attack and the enemy has my wrists tied together with a 50 lb weight hanging on the rope. That’s the moment that I have to cry out to my Father and ask Him to remove those chains, yet again, and help me to surrender to Him.
When I was the most afraid of lifting my hands and worshiping Him, and then I actually did—and I cried out for His help to praise Him, He helped me to lift my hands, and He helped me to keep them there, even when the doubts and the fears and the worries started attacking me.
I would repeat my request to my Father, asking Him to deliver me from the worry, anxiety and doubt that plagued my mind during that time, when my heart was burning within to feel His presence.
It is in those moments that He fills me beyond all measure. My cup is overflowing beyond anything I can imagine when I get to that place, in a room crowded full of people, that I can lift my hands in surrender to my Lord, and let go of all pretenses that have set themselves up between Him and I, and simply worship Him. I no longer even realize that there is anyone in the room sometimes…when He lifts me out of that state of constant fear, and worry, and doubt, my mind is free to praise and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. And my cup overflows…