When we go to church, the typical way we worship is by singing songs to God. Sometimes they’re more formal hymns and sometimes more lively numbers accompanied by guitars and drums. The more charismatic like to clap, lift their hands or even dance. In fact there’s a whole diagram dedicated to describing the different ways people raise hands to Heaven. Very funny. Google it. (Tim Hawkins Hand Raising Memes).
Sometimes, we worship through giving – our time or talents or our money. These are my favorite ways. I play on our worship team and it’s a huge privilege. The thing I love most is that it blends singing songs of praise with giving of my time and (small, but God given) bass playing talent.
But then sometimes worship isn’t a joy. Sometimes it’s the gritting of teeth and the planting of feet in defiance of every bone that wants you to hightail it out of the building. Grief does that to me and there’s been a lot of that.
My journey with grief began in Dec 2015 when the lady that was like a second mom passed away. She was fragile and advanced in years so it wasn’t a huge shock, but sad nonetheless. Then eight months later a man I’d come to love like a cheeky little brother was here one second and gone the next in a plane crash. We were left reeling. But fast forward another month and the three o’clock in the morning call came through, bluntly telling me that my actual brother was in the morgue. A sudden heart attack had taken him, much too young (mid 50’s). Three months later one of my best friends in England and then a favorite Uncle and another friend in Texas. Grief grief, grief.
My brother’s death really took me out at the knees. Such a force of nature gone in an instant. That was Thursday, and when Sunday rolled around I was ready to go to church and be immersed in the love of Jesus and His people who had been propping me up. But then worship began and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I don’t like ugly crying (who does), especially in public so I began to walk towards the bathroom to hide. Thankfully, my husband grabbed my hand, passed me Kleenex and held me until the moment passed. And so began a pattern that lasted for months, including when I was playing on the worship team. There was even a designated person who would come find me before we went on stage and give me a huge hug, in case I was feeling teary. Because he knew I probably was.
I’m writing this just a few days since my lovely, brave dad went home to Jesus. He went downhill a couple of weeks earlier and my children and I ended up saying “goodbye” more than once. The Sunday before his death I began to worship and the words just wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Only sobs. But having travelled this path before, I stood there and let my tears fall, with the beautiful words flowing over me. My heart worshipped when my lips could not. Then again the same thing the first Sunday after his passing.
Here’s what I’ve learned – that worship isn’t really about the act of service or the words of the song or the size of the cheque. Worship is when your heart cries out to God, giving him whatever is on it. It’s when your heart tells God you love Him despite your situation, because of His great love.
And crying or smiling, there is no greater joy.