I love the story of the woman who was diseased for 12 years. She was afflicted with a sickness that, because of her society and culture at the time, required her to live outside the city gates. Imagine that all of your friends lived in a quaint little neighborhood together. White picket fences, obedient dogs roaming around the yard, and daisies in each window box. They all come outside each morning to get their newspapers, coffee mug in hand, waving with a genuine smile. You, however, were forced to stay outside of the entrance to the neighborhood (you know, where those big stone pillars with the name of the fancy development are) because of your recent diagnosis with a horrible disease. Each and every day, you have to watch as your friends drive past you to go to work without saying a word, and return home with a look of disgust on their faces. They all know what’s wrong with you and they won’t associate with you because of it. One day, this woman hears that Jesus is coming to town. She has heard of his miracles and she knows of his power. So, she decides that she wants to go to the place where Jesus is teaching.
She takes a major risk, and goes AGAINST her culture and society; goes against everything that everyone has told her NOT to do — she enters the city gates and pushes through the crowds. She likely doesn’t sneak by in the shadows… the Bible says she PUSHES through crowds to get to where Jesus was. She was touching people she wasn’t allowed to touch, yet she had so much faith. As soon as she was able to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was healed. Jesus immediately stopped what he was doing and said, “Someone touched me.” The disciples probably thought Jesus was crazy. They said, “We’re in a huge crowd of people. Of course someone touched you.” But Jesus said, “No, someone touched me with faith. Someone touched me and needed something from me. I felt the power leave my body.” I want to be that woman. I want to push past my society and my culture to receive the goodness that the Lord is ready to give me.
I think this is a sobering example of the Church today. Not that we ostracize “non-believers”, but that WE are the ones, within our own church walls, who can’t be (and often don’t know how to be) let into the goodness of the neighborhood.
One of the biggest problems that I see as a worship leader is that congregations (and individuals) don’t know how to worship. They don’t know how to just BE in the presence of God. Too many times there is so much pomp and circumstance, rituals and predictability, to truly usher in the presence of God to a service. People stand with blank looks on their faces, some almost go so far as to practically roll their eyes. We have become so used to the music just being the opener and the closer for the service and not a meaningful element of worship that holds important value. So, how do we overcome this drought? How do we learn how to consistently be in the presence of God and know HIS goodness?
I think the answer is simple: we need to spend one-on-one time with the Lord outside of a Sunday service. Easy as that. You know when your mom calls and you know it’s her by the first word she says… or even by her breath? How do you know it’s her? Because you talk to her often enough to be familiar with her voice. Have you ever had someone call you and say “Guess who??” and you respond timidly with “umm…. whoooo…?” and they say “Seriously?? You don’t know??” I think we get that way with God. We get too caught up in the busyness of our lives, of the “liturgy” of a service, that we are unable to recognize voice of God. He speaks to us, but if we don’t know what his voice sounds like because we don’t spend time in the Word and in prayer, we will never know his voice.
Here’s an easy, practical solution: designate a certain chair or a corner in your house as your “God time” place. Tell yourself that you won’t leave that place until you’ve met with him. Make this a daily practice, and remember that you can (and SHOULD) just sit and wait. Sit and practice BEING in the presence of God. His presence is so sweet. Take time to learn what that feels like and learn about him.
How does this help with learning “how to worship” on a Sunday morning? When you show up at church, you’ll remember what his presence feels like, and you’ll recognize it. All of the sudden, instead of thinking about what comes next in the service, you might find yourself lost in REAL worship. So often I find myself wanting to just stand in the presence of God while I’m leading worship… and maybe I don’t want to LEAD the whole time! If Sunday morning was the only time I was getting my “worship time” in, I would be really disappointed, because I wouldn’t get to worship in my own time and way. But it’s so important for me to help draw others into the presence of God. My job is to be the shepherd who guides the sheep into the fields, inside the fences, and once they get there, to just let them eat in the pasture, and taste and see that the Lord is good. If I didn’t know where to lead the sheep, it would be pointless to try to lead the sheep anywhere. We might as well stay where we are. Therefore, I’ve gotten into the habit of worshiping at my keyboard at home. Just me and the Lord. I’m learning what his presence feels like and how to recognize his voice, so that I can effectively (and knowingly) lead the sheep into the pasture.
I want to be like the woman who pushed through crowds of people with a horrible disease. I want to push past the culture of Christians around me so that I can fully grasp and receive the goodness that can come from simply BEING in the presence of the Lord.