Let me begin by saying that I am only 19 months out from the loss of my eldest son in an auto accident. David will always be my first-born son, even though this week my son Nathan is now older than his older brother was when he passed (that was a punch in the gut). I am no expert on the subject, but ever since her comment months ago, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. So, what is about to follow is more than the ramblings of a broken man, or one who has it figured out or who has tapped into an unknown power source. It is one who humbly is just scratching the service of total surrender before the face of God.
For years I would go to church every Sunday morning, sing joyfully unto the Lord, raise my hands heavenward, and ultimately walk away with a good warm fuzzy feeling. I am not discrediting how I felt back then, or endorsing how I feel now. The one major element that caused my exodus from the Pentecostal movement years ago, is that my relationship with the Lord is not based on feelings. I might not "feel" that I am close with God at times (like right now), but that doesn't mean that He isn't holding me in the palm of His hand. I might not "feel" that I have hope in finding joy in the future, but that doesn't mean that He isn't in control, and understands what I need and don't need in the here and now. So, with the disclaimer thrown out there that my faith and hope is not built on "feelings," but rather on faith, I am still going to elaborate on the feelings that I have while standing wounded on Sunday mornings during worship.
What is worship? Well in today's day and age of 2022, that is mainly summed up in a 20-minute praise session that immediately precedes the 20-minute message brought by the pastor. None of that is meant to condemn or criticize, as that is the only time in my week that I feel comfort and solace. However, I have grown into a deeper understanding of worship as of late, as it being the object of me surrendering my all of nothingness to my creator. I say nothingness, as it requires my all in surrender, as there is absolutely nothing I have to offer as a benefit to God. Well, that is not completely accurate, is it? What He requires and desires of each of us is the willingness and ability to come before Him and surrender ALL to Him. THAT IS THE ACT OF WORSHIP!!! It is not "what" we bring to the altar of praise, but rather the act of surrendering all the cares of the world at His feet. This can only happen though when we realize that there is not a single "thing" that God wants from us, but an empty vessel. He is not impressed with how melodious and in-tune we think our singing is, or the types of clothing that we are wearing. What He is impressed with, is when we realize that we are broken, and only He has the ability to fix us. Granted, he uses others to accomplish His work, but we must come to acceptance with the tantamount theological fact that we are nothing, and He is EVERYTHING!
So why the concept of Wounded Worship, you might ask? I truly believe it is because of two major words that very seldom enter into our English vocabulary; and if they are uttered from our lips, they are more than likely just lip service and not put into practice. You see, these two words are not cool, attractive, or brave on the exterior, but I would argue that they are exactly that on the inside. These two words are the key to life and unlocks the gateway of the soul. Those two words are Authenticity and Vulnerability. The antithesis of these words is Pride & Selfishness. Proverbs 16:18 says that "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." These my friends are what keep us from drawing closer to God.
So, here goes the zip code emotionally that I reside in today. I feel dead inside most days. I struggle with being angry at God for not preventing my son's death. I am hurt and confused that my surviving son and daughter seem to have moved on with their grief journey, and confused why it doesn't affect them quite the same way as their mom and dad (Truth: it is a different level of grief for a sibling than a parent). I tend to find that most days I have Waldo and the beef on my mind. "Where is Waldo" or "Where's the Beef" being two slogans from a by-gone marketing era. I also am asking "Where is my Joy, and will I ever find it again?" For a person who was so used to being in control of his life and everything in it (both personally having a touch of OCD, to professionally being a licensed financial planner), it was hard for me to admit that I am not in control. I am not out of control; I am just not in control most days. That is not the scariest position or state of being in life. What is scarier is when you think you are in control, and you are not.
How is that for Authenticity and Vulnerability? I know some of you are still trying to connect the lines of how and why that has anything to do with the concept of Wounded Worship. Well allow me to put a bow on this package for you. In a life where I do not feel in control, do not feel joyful, and do not feel close to God, I am vulnerable by nature. However, I am deliberate by choice with Authenticity by showing and expressing my Vulnerability. When I enter into the church service on Sunday mornings, I walk in spiritually naked. I do not have any of the trappings of pride and selfishness. I do not feel that I have it all figured out, or that I have anything that God needs, other than my surrender and brokenness. I do not walk in with any pre-conceived notions of what I hope to get out of my time standing raw and naked before Him. I just simply stand tall as a 6'6" man but feel like I am laying prostrate before Him sucking carpet fibers. I come with the attitude of "Here I am again, standing before you broken with nothing to offer you but myself! If you see it fit to use this empty vessel, then I am available for Your service. If not, then I will continue to praise you in the storm, no matter how I feel on the outside."
If you worship near me on a Sunday morning, don't be embarrassed if you see this big man weeping during the worship service. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't have pity on me for my dead son. Don't feel that you have to fix me. Don't wonder why I grab my sons dog tags under my shirt, and his thumb print. Don't look at me like I am a weirdo (well...I am that :). Rather, figuratively come alongside of me where you are sitting. Surrender your heart to the all-consuming power of God. Learn that there is nothing that you have to offer God that He needs, other than your nothingness in surrender.
Why should you not pity me? Well, because my friends, I have tapped into Wounded Worship, and it has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life. During the week when I crave a good cry and can't, I am able to open the flood gates of emotions while humbly standing before Him in praise. While I am struggling with being angry at God, He tells me that He is stronger than I, and can handle any emotions I throw His way. While I struggle with finding joy in life again, He says that I don't have to be on a mission to find anything, but it is okay to just rest in the palm of His hands. No don't pity me, envy me. Not in the grief journey that I have been forced to embark upon, but rather the act of being stripped bare of the systemic pride and selfishness that is a cancer that runs rampant in our souls, by erecting a solid wall of separation from God. Just like the veil was torn in two in the Holy of Holies upon Jesus's death, that element of separation can also be torn in two in your lives if you allow Authenticity and Vulnerability to take hold during your surrender to the one who made you!
My disclaimer as usual for these blogs is not to tout my life as a beacon of success, but rather as a demonstration of the sometimes-hard path that we walk down. I know that there are others out there that are reading this that can totally empathize with my comments, and yet others that don't have the foggiest idea of the zip code in which I reside emotionally. I write this for all! Not just for those who "Get It" on this grief journey I am on (you know who you are), but also for those who don't understand. Allow this to be a warm word of wisdom for your heart. Tough times are coming for us all. I would much rather walk into the future learning from my past, then to have blinders on and be caught off guard by what tends to sneak upon you. May this be an encouragement to whomever reads it, and if it is so, please comment, as it also blesses me in my writings.