I’ve been leading worship for about 9 years but, like most things, it took many years to develop the ability to do it well. I don’t mean the ability to sing well (although that took some developing as well), I mean the ability to connect on a deeper level with God and, through my connection and worship, create an atmosphere of worship for others. This is easier said than done.
Sometimes I would come on a Sunday morning with life baggage and sometimes I would be leading a song that was not my favorite to lead, that didn’t speak to me. For whatever the reason, there were some Sundays that just didn’t click, and I would feel the disconnect in my own worship as well as that of the congregation. (Let me take a second here to say that sometimes the disconnect of the congregation has nothing to do with our own worship and solely to do with their own ability, or lack thereof, to connect to the spirit due to their own life baggage and/or immaturity of faith.)
I reached a point where God started to convict me about this, about worshiping in and through every aspect of my life, in spite of every situation I was going through, in spite of every wavering emotion. But how? How do I turn my mind off and tune into the spirit? I have been a long time believer that I have no control over my brain. Thoughts pop in left and right that I didn’t invite to be there. Emotional reactions to whatever transpired on the way to church (or throughout life) that I couldn’t will myself to stop feeling.
I once read an article by Christa Black Gifford where she talked about driving on the highway with those large cement construction barriers on one side and a semi truck on the other. She kept looking to her right and left feeling fearful of being sandwiched between these large, intimidating death traps. She realized that when she kept her eyes straight forward on the road ahead, she felt more secure and was able to stay in her lane, eventually moving beyond the barriers (she was much more eloquent, but you get the idea). The message was that what we focus on magnifies. When we focus on the negative, it magnifies. When we focus on the positive, it magnifies.
Several years ago I started contemplating the meaning behind worship. How do I lead from a place of declaration, of true and unwavering knowledge, and not just singing familiar words along to a familiar melody that may or may not evoke an emotional reaction within my spirit. Why do we sing? Why do we worship? What’s the purpose behind this regimented 3 songs to kick things off, 2 songs to conclude service, and sometimes a special to accompany an out of the ordinary event/topic/guest/etc.? I had a revelation (through the nudging of the Holy Spirit of course) that I needed to be intentional about every word that exited my mouth. I started to spend time with the songs throughout the week to allow them to transform me and speak truth into my spirit regardless of my thoughts/emotions/circumstances. I decided that I didn’t want to utter a single word that I didn’t truly believe within my soul. So I would meditate on the words of even my not most favorite songs.
Imagine if our worship was not subject to how we felt but instead determined by the foundational truth of who God is, what He has done for us, and His unwavering, unconditional, sacrificial love that transcends every circumstance, every emotion, and every thought. What if our worship overflowed from a place of absolute truth and not the deception of our fleeting emotional reactions to our circumstances.
One of my favorite songs to lead is “It is Well” by Kristen Demarco. If you’ve never heard this version, you need to!!! I had the hardest time with leading this most favorite song of mine because I wasn’t sure I meant it when I said, “It is well with my soul.” It got me thinking about what that meant…to be well in my soul. Let me just say that there are plenty of times in my life that I am a HOT MESS of a human being fighting to keep control of my emotions in the midst of my circumstances. And let me take a leap of faith in declaring I am probably not the only one.
What it comes down to is foundational truth. Knowledge of God’s character in spite of our own. The deepest truth of who He is in spite of our limited understanding. God’s faithfulness is not dependent on my own. God’s goodness is not dependent on my own. My limited understanding, my limited ability to comprehend, does not change who God is, and was, and always will be. I can rest in the knowledge that my ever changing circumstances, my ever wavering emotions and lack of understanding DO NOT have the ability or power to change who God is or what He promises to me. When I meditate on that truth, it is actually and truthfully well with my soul. Not my circumstances, not my emotions, or even my mind – but my soul. The part of me that is in direct connection with the spirit of God that sustains me in all things in spite of myself or my circumstances.
I want to challenge each and every one of you to be so very intentional about what you say, what you sing, what you proclaim, and what you believe about the God of your life, your circumstances and, most importantly, your soul. Don’t let the falsities of one overshadow the foundational truths of the other. IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL