It would be hard for me to fully express the role that worship songs- especially hymns, have had in my life. God used the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” to reach me when I was a teenager, finally and reluctantly confessing I was a sinner on my bed at night. Words I never knew existed in my memory bank came rushing back to me from childhood and all at once the word “wretch” struck my heart with tremendous force. I was a wretch, it was true. But the song said God had an interest in saving wretches like me. I didn’t know how yet, or why He could save a wretch like me, but I’m grateful He shone a light in my heart and kept on drawing me.
I had started attending church around that time, and having not grown up in one, witnessing people worship was fascinating to me. It just seemed amazing that people could really sing to God, and the looks on their faces were like they actually knew Him. I still have a poem I wrote as a teenager reflecting on what I experienced during this time they called “worship”:
I stand, swaying just enough
To blend in with the world
As they are wrapped up in their ecstasy.
Shouts of joy bounce off the walls
And I try to reach out;
To catch it without making a statement
Of my obvious attempts.
There are those who wear their love so
Glorious across their faces,
And I would expect them to be proud
Yet they are the meekest.
Often I hear words of great inspiration,
And the thirst deep inside of me pleads
To be filled.
(I smirk every so often, so that the
Stranger next to me won’t know the ways
Of which I have been intrigued)
I walked to the back of the room
Into a corner where no one would see,
And tried to speak a word to God
(To the air?)
My heart raced…
“It’s because you fear God!”
Or is it only for the people who have glanced back?
It’s kind of funny to have this poem as a little reminder of the foreignness and intrigue a “worship service” held for me then. I remember having a sense of the seriousness of singing songs to God. One Sunday morning I was singing a song, something about giving Jesus all of my life. But it wasn’t true. He didn’t have my life, and I knew it full well. I also knew the guy leading worship- a highschool friend, and that Jesus didn’t have his life either. I just remember shutting my mouth mid-song. How could I sing to God words that weren’t true? Words that I didn’t mean? The weight of it felt heavy enough to crush me so I fled, but on the way I asked the worship leader’s mom to send him outside when the singing was over.
He came out after awhile to find me crying on the curb. “Doesn’t it bother you?” I asked. “Singing those words, and living in sin?”
“Yeah, it does,” he admitted.
We tried to hold each other accountable to change, which might have lasted 48 hours if we were lucky. But God was working- using His tools to hammer away at a hard heart and make it ready for the gospel.
Now I’m saved. Praise God! Thank God! That dreadful weight of sin is gone, for Jesus bore it all away. But now that I’ve been a Christian for a good decade, sometimes I have to check my heart. Do I still remember on Sunday mornings that worship is the time when we sing songs to our Holy God? Do I prepare myself for that? Do I get my heart ready? When I sing the words, do I check whether I mean them? Do I ask myself whether or not I might be lying to God?
Surely, even when I’ve made my best attempts, I still come every Sunday a sinner.
“Just as I am,
And waiting not,
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
Oh Lamb of God I come.”
That’s the phenomenal difference friends. Now I come to worship Him in faith that He has, and does, and will cleanse each spot, and it’s only on this basis I can ever come and worship Him.
“Just as I am, thou will receive,
Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
Oh Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be thine, yea thine alone,
Oh Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
I think what we can’t afford to miss, is the absolute wonder of it. It should astound us that He has made sinners vessels fitting to bring Him praises. We don’t have to flee anymore. We stand on amazing grace and sing that He is worthy of our all and of our lives.
Worshipping God in song is one of the greatest gifts of my life, and I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t take the opportunity to sing. I have found, there is a song for every occasion, and many a time I have sung my way through both joy and pain. I am thinking of doing some more blog posts on my favorite hymns. If I do, I guess this can serve as an introduction. If not, I don’t know if you gained anything from my ramblings, but I’ll end with some scriptures.
Psalm 33:1-3 “Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts!”
Psalm 146:1-2 “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”