God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
There are times when I find myself in the middle of worship where I realize I’m not actually worshipping God. Instead, I’m focused on other things — the people around me, how I look, how I sound. I allow my time with God to become focused on me rather than on Him. Various thoughts enter my head that take over my time of worship: If I get emotional when I’m singing a worship song, then I will be faking myself out, immature. If I stand up to worship when no one is around, I will just be religious, trying too hard. If I stand up to worship when others are also worshipping, I’ll just be copying them. If I dance, I might tread into the realm of weird or flakey. If I worship in silence, how will I know it is real? I have too many fleeting thoughts. If I ask God to meet me, He won’t come. I haven’t been consistent.
I think each of these lies comes from a root of the worship of image, the extreme self-consciousness of our culture. It puts us on a perpetual stage; it entices us with fantasies of having others watch us do great things, or having headlines written about us, or having movies made about our lives—we end up living to what we want our legacy to be. We try, as the philosophers say, to create our own lifestyles. This idol, this lie, this sin imbeds itself into our concepts of our own purposes, our concepts of who we are. We put our focus on ourselves as though God was responding to who we are. This pervasive lie tries to make us believe that unless others are impacted or see what God is doing in us, there is no value in our lives—and there is no value in worshipping.
Fortunately for us, there is a way out of this trap, and I think I’ve started to see how to escape. We can be freed from this problem, and we can return to worshipping and praying in unseen closets instead of the public places of our hearts (and blogs).
Back when Jesus walked the earth, He asked His disciples a question while traveling along the road with them: Who do people say I am? According to the Gospel of Mark, they responded, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.” And Jesus asked them another question: But what about you, who do you say that I am?
Jesus seeks our response to who He is. In letting go of the idol of image, we can, free of self-consciousness and self-absorption, say as Peter did: “You are the Christ” (Mark 8).
We are not in charge of creating our own lifestyle or our own legacy after all. We can relax and feel His love. We can worship. May each of our eyes be opened, and may we truly respond, unafraid and unashamed, to the One who transforms us, who loves us, who is our only judge. The imagination, filled with the Holy Spirit, can brilliantly set us free to worship without shame or holding back.
Lord, I am sorry for the way I have placed myself in front of You. Strip away my self-absorption when I worship You. Humble me and soften my heart toward You.