I am going to talk a little bit about worship, but first- I am pretty in touch with my readers and I am aware that this may turn a few of you off. I hope not. I hope that, in the way you have all been so amazing over the most tumultuous year of my life, you will stick this post out with an open mind. Even if it’s not your thing, please try to understand that I am sharing something personal and not (in any way) trying to preach to you…
Before November 23, of last year, I’d had a lifetime of loving God. That had always been something present and life defining in my adult life. I went through various stages of Christianity. Some of the earlier days looked a lot like the stereotypically shallow version, which seems far more judgmental than loving. I have always (and will continue to be) a work in progress. I caught on, in my early twenties, to stepping out and thinking for myself rather than following the church current. Due to my history of infertility and sexual abuse, there were a lot of ideas and Christianese sentiments which did not nestle well with the heart I had developed for God. I am not saying a lot of these things don’t work well for others, but in a moment of unabashed frankness I will say that many of those I knew early on who did walk that line are pretty cold people now. It is my personal opinion that being cold and judgmental is not the plan.
Up until the summer of 2015 I really believed I had the God thing figured out. Adoptive parenting, maybe not so much. Being a writer professionally, definitely not. The two things that I was most confident in were my marriage and my faith. If you have been reading here for any amount of time at all, you are well aware that my marriage started to rapidly crumble last fall and fell apart in November.
Rock bottom is sometimes where we need to hit, to grow and be. When I say rock bottom, I want to clarify: when you slam unexpectedly, and life shatteringly hard against the hardest ground imaginable and know in the depths of your being that you cannot pick yourself up. This, for me, was November 23rd. And it looked ugly, and it felt worse. Indescribably worse.
I have, as a Believer in God, never been a fan of Christian music or films. Call me cynical, because that’s really what it was. Prior to my fall, I believed worship music was meant for Sunday service. In that “appropriate” place, I loved me some good worship music. I loved the feeling of getting caught up in praising God. And, at various times in the week, like the good girl I was, I was known to play a worship playlist and spend time with God. Worship music had a time and a place. And then, after months of contemplating suicide, I found myself at my splattered-rock-bottom place and everything I knew and believed was shaken. How does a Godly marriage fall apart? How does a woman who loves Jesus and tries to love others selflessly end up broken and alone? How could I end up in such a place at my age (39)? What could I have done differently? Layers and layers of film were removed from the eyes of my heart. I began to see things as I had never seen them before. Myself. My preconceived notions of what a woman, a wife and a mother should be like. I began to see my motivations in all of their earnestness. It was rough. I did not know how to exist outside of my wifehood and my motherhood, because in those moments I had neither. I had to admit, for the first time, that I was completely incapable of being anything for anyone. This was a hard, hard thing when I had spent my life being that rock for everyone I loved. My rock quality had become slime and I could not allow that mess to stick to others.
Worship is NOT standing in church with others and singing songs. Authentic worship was, I am not kidding, one of the biggest lessons I learned in my climb from my rock bottom hell. It can fit in church singing, at times. It can also be found in the shower, sitting in traffic, shopping, sitting on the beach, listening to music. Worship is NOT singing. Sure, it can be. It can be singing a Christian song, a non-Christian song, your own in-the-moment string of words. It can also come about in meditation, in conversationally talking to God, in writing, in working out, in washing dishes… Worship is stepping outside of self, in gratitude and love (and sometimes various other things) to focus on God. Worship is easily the most personal thing we can do, and debatably one of the most vulnerable. In that way, as a parent, where you can choose whether to think of your huge to-do list while your kids ramble on, or to tune out everything and listen to them. Tuning out everything and focussing on God- THIS is worship. And it took laying there in my metaphorical chalk outline to realize I had never really planted myself in that place. Sure, I’d had snapshots of moments like that. The worship service, Bible study or personal devotion time moments… But to LIVE that way? At the supermarket, at the gym, folding the laundry… This I had never done. Suddenly though, as I processed through these realizations, I knew that I ached to.
You know how I said Christian music hadn’t really been my thing? I LOVE music and have pretty vast taste. If it’s trendy, it’s not usually my taste. And I avoided most Christian music because honestly, the majority of it sounded the same. And then, one morning I am tearfully broken and utterly alone at church (also something new to me, as I had never done the alone-in-church thing*) and we sang this song . The lyrics of this song literally reached inside of my emotional gut and scraped it clean. It was agonizing and healing all rolled into one. Come to find out, it was by Hillsong. Sure, I knew Hillsong. They did Oceans and nearly every American Christian is overly familiar with Oceans and it’s dangerously alluring lyrics. I started listening, and listening, and listening. Praise and Worship music had never been on my music-of-choice radar and suddenly all I wanted, all of the time, was to have Hillsong in my ears. They were the balm my heart was needing as it began to heal. That original song which ripped me apart, to make me better, on that January Sunday morning is called Touch the Sky. It hit me right where I was and gave me the courage to rise and live. In that place I learned what worship would be, for me. I hit the ground, and I found a relationship with God I had never known possible. I am not perfect, I am no better than anyone else. What I am is honest and real. There is no pretense, there is no “putting on a good front” so others remain comfortable and there is no condemnation towards another soul. I’ve had a few Christians whom I respected criticize me for such transparency. I have had more people open up to me, however, (especially through this blog) because I’ve been real.
I know that I’ve talked a fair amount about Hillsong here. I was fortunate to see them twice, this year, and it was life affirming both times. I am now convinced that, if I could have a Hillsong concert, an afternoon on the pacific coast, a girl’s weekend and a night in the city every year, I would be the most well-rounded and peaceful person alive. Since that is not likely to happen, however, I can admit that I am beyond excited for the film HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE, releasing this Thursday! Though it wouldn’t be the same, when it’s out on DVD I will be able to watch it every time I need that boost. Also, I really love this video where Hillsong’s Taya Smith talks about worship… (Also, I TOTALLY dig her retro jacket. #80’s!) Here’s the other reason I really love them… They are authentic. Their lyrics are raw and honest, and their persons are too. Christian or not, that deserves respect in this world.
My Hillsong projects and giveaways have been really personal to me, for the story I’ve shared above. It is on that note that I want to share another! I will be giving away two separate items. One is the soundtrack, and other is a pair of tickets to see HILLSONG- LET HOPE RISE in the theater. To enter to win, simply leave a comment in response to this post OR what worship means to you. (Comments on the Facebook post will also count, alternating in number, with one being here, two there, three here, etc…)
(*during my journey I had a single girlfriend tell me that she was so used to going to church alone that when someone went with her it bothered her. This seemed INSANE to me. I ached for my family and felt their absence screamed loudly at church. Then, the first few Sundays when I went back to church with them beside me I realized I was so distracted. Moral of that story, I guess is, every situation is only ever what we choose to make of it.)