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Location: Indiana, United States

Friday, April 15, 2005

Take joy in what You hear

I was telling my son a personal story today of a way that God humbled me and taught me an important lesson about worship. I'd like to repeat that story here to remind me that worship is not about how worthy I am, but about how worthy God is.

When I was in college I enjoyed singing. Two of my friends and I used to sing in a trio. We occasionally sang in churches, and once even won a campus competition. Our favorite thing to do though was to go into a rec room with great acoustics and sing one song after another, playing around with different harmonies. We loved it. Often I would go out in the woods to pray and would end up singing my prayers to God. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. And there was nothing like singing with a couple thousand other college students during daily chapels. My heart thrilled every time.

One spring I lost my voice. And it stayed lost for almost three months. I could talk to people, but the minute I tried to sustain a note I would again have no voice whatsoever. I felt like I had lost an arm. I found myself chaffing at being denied my voice. I couldn't understand why God would take it away from me. After all, didn't I use that voice to praise Him? Didn't I help others worship when I sang for church? Wasn't it a good thing to sing hymns and praises together with the rest of the student body? I had a big why in my heart that began to disintegrate into ugly bitterness.

Then God had mercy on me. No, He didn't give me my voice back right away. But He taught me one of the most important lessons I learned in college. And He used one of the most simple songs we sang in chapel to melt my proud and bitter heart, and cause me to worship in spirit and in truth as He truly desires.

I was in chapel, mouthing the words to songs as the rest of the student body sang loudly. After two months of not singing, I was very good at lip syncing during chapel and church. We had sung several songs and came to the simple chorus, "I Love You, Lord." We began to sing and each verse hit home harder than the last until I found my self weeping with repentance over my sinful heart. Here's the song and the lesson I learned to pray with each verse:

I love you, Lord.
And I lift my voice. [though nobody around me can hear it]
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice. [I can rejoice in worshipping God, and worship doesn't take a pretty voice]
Take joy my King, in what You hear [because you're the only one who can hear my song]
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.

It didn't matter that nobody else could hear me. It didn't matter that I couldn't sing in front of a church. I realized that so much of what I had done in my singing before was to bring glory to myself. I wanted people to hear that I had a pretty voice. I wanted to be noticed for the harmonies that I could sing. I ... I ... I. But I finally realized that what I had been doing, though it may have been pretty and had good words, was not worship. It was just singing. And it was worthless.

That song stuck with me. I had beautiful times of confession, praise, adoration, and genuine worship over the next month of my outward silence musically. I learned what it means to worship God from my heart. Finally God did choose to restore my voice. Singing was never quite the same again. Sure, I had my moments of pride. But then God would bring to my mind the lessons I learned so hard, and I was much quicker to repent and begin to worship in ways that He desires.

I told that story to my son today because he asked me to sing a song for him. And you see, I can't sing right now. I haven't been able to sing for the last two months. I'm in the same place I was back in college. But I haven't been without a voice. I have the privilege of making the sweet sound of worship that God alone can hear. And that's enough for me.


Anonymous Holly said...

Hi there! (It's your Niece)...I really enjoyed reading this entry, as I can definitely relate to your story. Since I do have that gift from God (singing), it used to be easy to stray away from what I should have been thinking about and meditating on during a worship service. It was easy to be distracted by my own voice, or the songs themselves, and the melodies I loved so much. I finally took a step back, and really took to heart what I had heard in a sermon: don't sing worshipful words, unless you truly mean them. And it really has made a difference in every time I visit my Church-I feel a much realer connection with's no longer enjoying the songs themselves-it's meditating on the words, and how awesome God is!

1:10 PM  

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