I grew up with an eclectic education on religion. Different members of the family believe different things, and since every one of my relatives basically had a hand in shaping me into who I am today, I moved out on my own pretty confused about baptisms, musical instruments in worship, and whether going to church was good or bad, amongst many other things. My great aunt and great uncle took me in at 17 and I began attending a church of Christ three times a week. I did so, religiously (haha), for about four years. I became accustomed to the vocals-only approach to worship. I felt pretty safe with that approach, since my grandparents ridiculed the praise and worship genre for most of my childhood. Soon, I grew to believe, through a consistent concept in the congregation, that only those members sitting in a church of Christ pew and worshiping like us would go to heaven. This terrified me and left me rooted in place at the congregation for the next six months. Through a series of events, I ceased attending. Disagreements, a tragic event or two, and some over-stepped boundaries pushed me out of the desire to return. I simply quit going to church at all.
When I moved to Texas a year and a half ago, I went to church maybe a total of five times during the entire eighteen months. I didn’t, however, cease to spend time with my Lord. I read the Word from the confines of my room and the comfort of my bed.
Last week, I attended worship at Justin’s church. They’re a fantastic congregation of whole-hearted believers who have all welcomed me with open arms. I love it.
But I struggle with the worship. I found it impossible, during the first sermon, to worship through song at all because I was overwhelmed by the worship team. The guitars and the drums and the pianos… it was all too much for me. I felt like crying, and then I felt RIDICULOUS. Why did I want to cry? It took till the end of the sermon to realize that I felt like I was sinning by listening to the music, by singing along with the praise and worship tunes, and by being in a building that wasn’t labeled “church of Christ.” Justin was in the band so we had to stay for the next sermon too, and I had to sit it out. I was still recovering from the seeming culture shock.
Today’s worship was a little different. As it began, I felt my mind expanding with all the negative things my grandparents had said and all the things I’d been taught at my former church, and I began to get overwhelmed. Justin put his arm around me and I felt a little better, and I tried to shut down my brain. As the worship progressed, I kept feeling the overwhelming need to cry. I couldn’t understand why.
The worship leader paused for a moment and said a short, sweet prayer about breaking down barriers and allowing us to worship freely, and it made sense. I felt like Jesus was reaching into my mind and breaking down the walls of negativity. Then I REALLY cried and felt REALLY conspicuous but I couldn’t help it. I told Justin This evening how silly I felt, and he said, “sometimes we have to cry, or else how can we handle the full presence of God?” (I love him.)
My heart felt so full, and when Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus began, I thought I would explode with love and gratefulness. (Pretty sure that’s not a word but let’s just pretend, okay?) The rest of worship was still difficult but I know that He’s with me and it’ll only get easier from here. The hardest part is past.
Thank You, Lord.
That’s how He encouraged and helped me today.