Monday, May 27, 2013

Kneeling at the Throne

Autumn-country-church - Virginia - ForestWander
When I was a kid we went to church.  Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night - we were there.  Every gospel meeting, ladies day, VBS and workday, our van was in the parking lot.   I can't recall my sister or I ever questioning the habit.  There was no need to ask - we went to church. 

When my mom, a nurse, worked weekends, my dad put two little girls in their Sunday dresses and took the hairbrush and his pride to my grandmother for help with our hair.  When we had the flu, mom stayed with us in the morning and dad stayed in the evening so that each of them could worship at least once on Sunday. As an older teen, I often came into church in my work clothes covered in flour from the pizza joint, or dust from working cash register at the hardware store.  Mom never fussed when she hugged me hello. She just wanted to see the habit grow strong in us.  

When I went off to college, worship remained a spiritual discipline.  Like it or not, we went to chapel everyday.  I didn't always sit in the Benson Auditorium deeply impressed with the presence of God.  Too often, I was flirting with my boyfriend/fiancee/husband, studying for a Greek quiz, or trying to stay awake. Nonetheless, I also wept there for my sin, rejoiced for the repentance of others, and was refreshed again and again as we sang.  God was with us whether I was really "there" or not.

Fast forward still more years.  We were on vacation in a cheap little hotel in a primarily Muslim country.  After a late Saturday night our little girl, not quite two, had had me up since 5am rocking her in the hard backed chair in the hallway.  The sun was creeping in the dusty window, but without a watch I wasn't sure if it were time to get the rest of my sleeping family up.  I dreaded the thought of getting two little girls ready for church in a foreign country, finding clothes not too wrinkled and stained, bolting down breakfast and somehow locating a church where we could worship.  Just as I was debating walking down the stairs to look at the clock by the check-in desk and asking the clerk if he knew where to find a church in town, something caught my eye.  Sitting beside me, the only reading material in the hallway, was a fold out tourist map. Delaying, I opened it.  Not two blocks from the hotel was the Melaka Church of Christ.  Providence.

It sounds crazy when I say that out of a vacation that included holding a python, hiking through the jungle, eating authentic Indian food off a banana leaf and seeing one of the world's tallest building, the highlight of our time there was the church.  But it was.  We have been talking about them for years.  Their hospitality, kindness, warmth and evident love made a deep impression!

We are sustained or betrayed by our habits.  Although as a child I attended church unthinkingly, my parents' habit is mine. I can think of countless times that I came to worship covered in sin, pain and resentment.  I didn't "want" to be there.  My heart wasn't right.  But it was there that my sisters ministered to me, that the sermon seemed aimed directly at my heart, that I humbled myself and was once again right with God. 

As parents my husband and I are building habits in our kids.  Every night at bedtime, we read the Bible and we pray.  In America we worship at a church building, on vacation we find a little church someplace, or we find the elements of communion in a convenience store and worship together in our hotel room. At home we meet in our apartment, a tiny living-room's worth of Christians.  Every morning we sit at the kitchen table, recite our verses and have a little devotional. Is all this worship a guarantee that our daughters will never disappoint us, rebel, or sin?  No. Children have free choice too.  Our worship is a discipline. It's opportunity after opportunity for my whole family to be shaped by the will of God.    

These days I understand better what worship is.  It's the basic human need to recognize and praise that which is more and better than ourselves.  Directed at God, worship makes us fully human: humble, receivers of grace, givers of praise.  God doesn't need us to praise him, the stones and rocks will do the job if we fail (Luke 19:40). We need to worship God and we need it all the time. I don't understand the mystery of heart-change.  I know that its possible to be "in church" with hearts that are "in the world."  But I also know that we need the habit and discipline of worship to shore up our weakness and bring us back, day by day, week by week to the place we most need to be.  Kneeling at the throne. 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment