Sunday, November 22, 2009

Permission To Worship

I struggle to worship through singing, and have for a very long time. My definition of what the worship experience should be has been so narrow, I'm not sure I've ever even experienced it. At it's root is an admirable quest for authenticity and a meaningful, selfless, connection with God, but it has ultimately left me too skeptical to ever "let go" enough to have it.

I love live music, and always have since my first concert when I was 13 (It was Sting, I'm embarrassed to say). I used to go to concerts a lot. Work and fatherhood have put a damper on the rock n' roll lifestyle, but I still go when I can. Good live music can create good happy feelings, even elation, in people, myself included. I don't know the science behind why good music triggers the chemical reactions in us that make us feel good, but it does, and I'm glad. The problem is, it doesn't seem to matter whether it's secular music or worship music - the feelings are the same. I've mistrusted those feelings in worship, fearing that I could be equating a "good, deep worship experience" with a chemical reaction that seems to occur regardless or the content, or purpose of the music. I'm also concerned with the ways those feelings can be used to manipulate people. We can use music and song lyrics to trigger emotions in people and get them to respond. I've been so afraid of being manipulated, of being inauthentic, that I've lost the ability to even know what authenticity would look like.

This morning, while listening to / worshiping with David Crowder Band at the National Youth Workers Convention it hit me - the feelings that music can make me feel are good because music is good, because God made it good, and the feelings, even if they're just chemical reactions, are good, because God created that capacity in us. I can celebrate the things that God made good, and praise Him for those, and that is worship and it is authentic. That doesn't mean that music can't be used for bad purposes, and that worship music can't be used to manipulate people emotionally, but I admitted to myself this morning that David Crowder probably isn't trying to manipulate me, and the worship team at church isn't trying to manipulate me, and as long as I stay away from Benny Hinn conventions, most Christians in the circles I run in probably aren't trying to manipulate me. I can let it go. I can call it worship.

For as long as I can remember, my crap-detector has been set to 11. I'm not sure why, but I think it's the way God made me, but there are times it's very hard for me to put it aside and be in a moment without over thinking it. If I can't decide that manipulation and inauthenticity are a risk worth taking, then I'm going to miss out on experiences with God that can only be had when I let go of those fears.