I Lie at Church

One Sunday as I sang along to the song on the screen, I realized I might not entirely mean what I was singing.

My wealth is in the cross *
There’s nothing more I want
Than just to know His love
My heart is set on Christ

Or another song, one I haven’t sang quite as recently:

You’re all I want **
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know You are near

You are my desire
No one else will do
‘Cause nothing else could take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

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Photo by Bill Hamway on Unsplash

Do I intend to mean those words? Yes. Except most days, to say “There’s nothing more I want than just to know God’s love” would be a big lie. I want that, sure, but it’s one on a list of many wants, and while I know what the order of those desires should be, it rarely actually looks that way. As I go through my regular days, if I thought about, “What do I want most in this moment?” my answers would often be very small, immediate things. A hot piece of pizza, a kind reply to a difficult email I had to send, some hazelnut coffee left in the pot in the kitchen at work. Digging a bit deeper, I might also want a friend to reply to my text, a nice guy to notice me, my dad’s recovery from surgery to be going well.

Should God be all I ever want? Absolutely. Should he be the only thing I think I truly need? Yes. But I also feel like I need friends and a house and food, and while on some level those are needs, they aren’t deep-level needs like I’m supposed to need God.

And then, maybe, after those are out of the way, I’d remember to articulate my desire for God to be enough in my life. But I’d still want all of those other things.

Should I stop singing these kinds of songs until I can mean the words with 100% truth?

I don’t really think so. As godly and noble as the writers of songs might be, not even they could mean the words they write every single moment of every single day, yet they still go ahead and write them anyway. When we sing worship songs or read psalms as our prayers, I think God knows our heart behind them even if we struggle with fully meaning what the words are saying.

It’s helpful for me to think of singing these kinds of songs as both a proclamation and a prayer. There are glimmers of moments where I truly do believe God is all I really want, but also, I sing those words as a desperate plea for God to continue conforming my wayward desires to look like his. The hope is that day by day, month by month, year by year, the times God truly is all I want will only ever increase, until maybe, someday, it’s more true than not true. I’ll never perfect it in this lifetime–I’m far too full of human-ness for that to be possible–but the hope of the Christian life is that we continually become better than we were the day before.

So I’ll keep singing the worship songs with gusto, even if I don’t feel like I fully believe or mean every single word as fully as I should. Because while I may not be at that place today, maybe someday I will be.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

*Read more: Hillsong – Crowns Lyrics | MetroLyrics
**Read more: Kutless – Draw Me Close Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Confessions of a Youth Leader: When God Doesn’t Show Up

Last Saturday, I returned home from the much-angsted-over mission trip. I tried so hard to look for God in the unexpected, to see him working in ways other than the ones I’ve grown accustomed to. And for some on the trip, he did. Students talked of how, for the first time, they realized their faith could be something real, something that shapes their lives. They worked, they sang, and they prayed like they truly didn’t even know was possible. It was beautiful to see.

But I wanted some of it for myself, too. As nervous as the thought made me, I wanted God to show up. I wanted him to show me that he’s much bigger and better than I’ve let him be in the corner I’ve tucked him into.

And he just didn’t.

I had a hard time setting aside my skepticism about ways of doing things that I’m not used to–I’ll be the first to admit that. While I like to say that I think differences in how we worship, how we experience God, the way that we interact with people, what we believe about baptism and communion and any number of things, are okay, sometimes I fall into thinking that my Christianity is better than yours. As hard as I tried to set all my preconceived notions aside last week, I didn’t do very well. So maybe I didn’t see God working in unexpected ways because there was still a small piece of me that didn’t want to see him work like that.

Fortunately, God is at work all the time. Even when we look so hard for him to show up in unexpected ways that we kind of miss the point.

Because one night we sang a song I have sang more times than I can even count. It was a regular on the roster in the church I grew up in and in any number of “church-y” events I have attended.

And as much as many of the students felt God in the words of the many flashy new songs we sang last week, I felt him here. In these tired words that have been cast aside by many of my peers, I was reminded that God doesn’t just work in new ways: He works in old ones too.

In the same ways I’ve seen and felt him working all through my life.

It doesn’t mean that he can’t use new ways, but there’s nothing wrong with the old ones. Nothing wrong with these words I’ve sang so many times before, just like there’s nothing wrong with the Bible verses I’ve read over and over again. Just because they’re familiar doesn’t mean they need to be retired.

And so, I suppose, God did show up in a way I didn’t expect him to: He showed up right where I’d left him.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you been reminded of how God works in the same ways you’ve experienced him before?

I Need Church

I’ve been attending church my entire life. As a child, I don’t remember ever actively balking at the prospect of going to church, though I’m sure in middle and high school there were times I would’ve preferred to sleep in. My first two years of college, I did a fair amount of “church shopping,” as well as some intentional skipping. For the last two years, I’ve been attending a church I have grown to love, and have become quite involved there.

Photo Credit: Flickr User celesteh

Finally, after over 22 years of attending church, I think I’m finally beginning to understand why I need it.

As I stood in church this morning, my soul sighed in rest. This is where it belongs. Worshiping, surrounded by other believers–this is what my soul needs.

During the week, I go to work. I go to classes where I am the teaching assistant, and leave with stacks of papers to grade. I go to Bible study once or twice. I grade the stacks of papers. I hang out with friends. I watch TV. And so forth. In their own way, these are good things, even necessary. These are the day-to-day bits that make up a life.

But they are often tiring, stressful, wearying. They take their toll, in all sorts of ways.

Church is a recharge for my soul.

In so many ways.

I love to sing, but I love to sing most when they are songs of worship and praise offered to God. I love (and hate) the way the sermon often seems to be intended specifically for me, and I find myself examining my life, determining things that need to change or I need to be cautious of. I love seeing friends, and greeting new ones.

Not every church has these elements, every week, for every person. As a whole, the church is not a perfect institution. On an individual level, no specific church is perfect, even mine. Most weeks I can’t wait to go to church; but this phase of wanting so desperately to go to church will not last forever. This is the first time in my life that I can say that with any sort of consistency, and as with all things, it will go in cycles. But I truly hope and believe I continue to go to church even when I do not feel like it.

Because church has praise. Worship. Community. These are the things my soul needs.

This is why I need church.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Church can be a touchy topic. What do you think about it?

My Christianity is Better Than Yours

Let’s clear something up right away: I don’t actually believe my Christianity is better than yours.

But occasionally I might think it. Or act like it.

It’s easy for me to excuse–“I’m just used to doing things the same way I was raised.” “I believe that doctrine and theology are important.” “I’m not good with change.”

None of these things give me a right to think, act, or believe like my Christianity is somehow superior to yours. They might be different, in terms of how we worship, how we experience God, the way that we interact with people, what we believe about baptism and communion and any number of things.

But that doesn’t make one solidly right and the other solidly wrong.

Different is not wrong.

I feel I must be careful here, though. Over the years, Christianity has been misrepresented, distorted, and misused. In some cases, I believe actions done in the name of Christianity, or teachings twisted to say what someone wants them to instead of what the Bible teaches, are wrong in a black and white sense. But they’re not wrong because they’re different than what I do; they’re wrong because they go against what God wants for people who follow him.

My hesitancy rarely regards issues as big as those, however. When I hear or read of someone experiencing God or worshiping him in a dramatically different way than I am used to, my first instinct is to question it. Is that really how God wants his people to be praising, or gathering, or dancing, or singing, or writing?

Maybe it is.

Or maybe, what it really comes down to, is that people are different, and God created them that way. Doctrinally, we may believe the same things, but we may have very different ways of expressing it. The instruments used in our worship services may be different, or the way the leadership of the church is or isn’t organized, or the volume at which we speak our prayers.

It is not up to me to question the validity of a certain way of expressing belief. 

It may not be something I am comfortable or familiar with, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Thoughts? Drop a comment.