Worship was standing in the living room, singing hymns from red-covered hymnals. Picking out new tunes on the old organ, we tried to create harmonies with a handful of people who were more (or less) musically gifted. I memorized the words before I learned how to read them.

Worship was a guitar and a djembe and unfamiliar choruses projected (with more or less accuracy) onto a screen. Sweaty, dirty, exhausted people sang their hearts out, hands lifted high. I kept my hands at my sides and wondered what I'd gotten myself into.

Worship was the sunny spot in the woods where I was completely alone. Where, at last, God taught me that I could worship with my posture as well as my words. Inch by inch, my hands went up as I reached out to the Father with whom I was just becoming acquainted.

Worship was singing into a microphone, in front of other people, and hearing God ask me to lift my hands and worship Him there. I closed my eyes to shut out the faces and, tremblingly, obeyed.

Worship was Mozambican believers singing and dancing and dancing. I didn't quite understand, but I did fall rather in love.

Worship, for me, has been a wildly patchworked series of dissimilar settings and experiences; each new experience adding a little something to my perception of who God was and how best to honor Him.

But somewhere along the way, my focus shifted ever so slightly away from my Father.

Somewhere, obedience got laid to the side.

Somewhere during those days, I began to slowly embrace an insidious idea: The idea that worship is an experience - a certain way that I'm supposed to feel - and that, if I'm not having an experience, I am worshiping incorrectly. I began to measure the quality of my worship by the extent of my perceived connection with God. Hands up, hands down? Eyes opened, eyes closed? Hymns or choruses? How does my worship feel today?

With this altered view came a new concern: Am I a hypocrite when I go through the motions of worship, even when I don't feel like worshiping? As my worship 'experiences' happened with less and less frequency, I was left to simply sing the familiar songs and wonder what had gone wrong.
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Then I re-read the Old Testament, and I began to understand worship from another perspective. In the midst of sometimes-tedious description, I saw that God gave specific instructions on how His people were to worship Him. He told them how, when, and where to approach Him, and it didn't seem to matter whether or not they felt that they were worshiping Him, because He was there; He knew the deepest inner workings of His people's hearts, and He would meet those who were obediently seeking Him.

I began to understand that true worship is greater than a feeling or an experience.

I realized that, maybe, obedience is more important than feelings. That faith should take precedence over the fabrication of an experience. That, as I do my best to show God my love through my obedience, He will be faithful to meet me along the way.

How does God desire to be worshiped?

Am I worshiping Him according to His rules, or according to mine?

Worshiping God according to His rules is often unimpressive. Sometimes, worship looks like David, ridiculed because of his exuberant dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14-22). Sometimes, it looks like a poor widow with her meager offering dropped into the treasury (Luke 21:1-4). Sometimes, other people won't understand. But worship isn't supposed to be about us, anyway. 

Worship requires much faith.

I must trust that, if I do my best to worship God as He desires, then He will be glorified. He will transform even the feeblest of offerings into something actually worth having. At times, I will be able to feel this. At other times, I must simply have faith that it is true. Sometimes, I will be going through the motions of worship and it won't look like much because, quite frankly, it isn't much. It's me, offering something to God and saying, 'here, God. This isn't great, but it's all I've got right now.'

God reminded me that worship isn't about how I feel. It's about honoring Him. Judging from the story of the widow's offering (Luke 21), God is often most honored in the little things. So I ask myself, 'what little thing can I offer to God as an act of worship?'

Maybe, it's my faithfulness to do the best that I can - even when I don't feel like it - and trust that He will make up what I lack and meet me in my obedience.

Maybe my willingness to try and to keep trying, despite my own inability, is important to Him.

Maybe the faltering voices ring as sweetly in His ears as the confident ones.

Maybe His strength, perfected in our weakness, is the very best worship we can offer.


  1. Thank you for this, Janie. What is great about your writing is not only that it is true, but that it is personally honest. Those are different. It is your personal honesty that helps that truth penetrate into hearts and minds instead of glancing off. -Kayla McK

    1. Kayla, thank you so much for your kind words! Honest vulnerability is sometimes sooo hard for me, and it is encouraging to know that it has blessed another person.


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