By Paul Clouse
Last week I discussed the fact that I believe God calls all of us to be Christians differently from one another. By definition, that means all of us will have different passions, different skills and abilities. Taking things a step further, I also believe that if done properly, all things can be done as an act of worship.
The summer after I graduated High School, I started taking classes at the local community college. The school was about twelve minutes away, once you made it to the interstate. For this reason, I finally decided it would probably behoove me to get my driver’s license. As such, most mornings I would be speeding down the interstate with music blaring, feeling freedom like I had never experienced as I drove to classes I actually wanted to take.
Often, while I drove my mind would drift and inevitably end up going to some spiritual places. The morning in which this story takes place was one of these. For a long time prior to this moment, I had been thinking about the notion of worship. Someone at church had said that God created humans to worship him. That never sat well with me. It made God seem so… Small. Petty. Like he needed to be told that he was good, so he created a universe of creatures to do just that. It just didn’t jive with who I knew God to be. But, at the same time, I also knew that there was something special about worship… I just didn’t know what it was. I had been asking for a few weeks, talking to people, reading, praying about it, but answers eluded me.
On this particular morning, it was cool and overcast. (I love those kind of days.) I drove along, absently singing the lyrics to whatever song was playing as I pondered the whole worship conundrum. And then it happened. The interstate curved sharply. As I moved through the curve, my view shifted along with the road as the treeline scooted to my periphery. The moment the road straightened, the sun burst through the clouds. Shining beams of light exploded around me, and instantly I felt warmth on my face. Rays of light cast shadows on the verdant grass, and for just a split second, everything the sun touched sang as it became Holy.
In the back of my head, I heard a voice Not My Own speak. “You worship me because you are not complete without it.” In that moment, my entire being told me it was true. When I look back at the best moments of my life, inevitably, they are the ones in which the veil between myself and God was the thinnest. These moments usually came about when I made a deliberate effort to tell God how much I enjoy him.
That day changed the way I look at worship. Slowly, I began to realize that I had been sold short. I believe the American Church has really dropped the ball regarding how we look at the topic of worship. In the majority of churches I have attended, worship is an idea that gets crammed into a box between the offering and the pastor speaking. Worship consists of singing words you didn’t write off the wall, screen, or hymnal, and that’s as deeply as anyone seems to look at it. My new revelation would not allow that to stand.
See, the problem is I’m a terrible singer. My friends will back me up on this. I have absolutely no musical talent at all. And for years, I hated that about myself. Watching the musicians on stage singing and actually using their skills to bring the audience closer to God made me so damn jealous that all I could do is glower. What was I supposed to do? Yes, I could just sit there and sing despite the fact that I was awful at it, but I wanted to give God something better than that.
In the midst of worship service one day, I grew disgruntled and sat down. I flipped my Bible open and happened to start reading about Cain and Abel. If you’re not familiar with the story:
There were two brothers. One tended the flocks, the other was a farmer. When it came time for them to make a sacrifice, Abel killed a lamb, and Cain provided some fruit. God was unhappy with Cain’s offering, and in a fit of jealousy, Cain killed Abel.
As the story had always been presented to me as a kid, God was unhappy with Cain’s offering because he offered fruit instead of meat. Reading through the story this time around, I saw something I had never seen before…
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
God wasn’t upset at Cain for bringing fruit; he was upset because Cain hadn’t provided the best. Maybe this is a stretch, but sitting in my pew, I suddenly realized something… Worship is more than singing songs. In fact, this whole story was about worship and nobody sang a damn thing. So… If singing is worship… and being a shepherd is worship… and apparently, if done properly, being a farmer is worship… Then where are the lines?
My heart spoke up as I posed the question. There aren’t any. Everything can be worship. Watching a movie, playing a video game, going shopping (just ask my wife), throwing a party, eating with your friends, writing a story, doing math, looking through a microscope, playing a sport, hugging a tree. Everything can be worship.
But… Come on… Everything?
Okay, there are a few things to be cognizant of… As we see in the story of Cain and Abel, clearly there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing something… This is something I’ve been thinking about for years, and here is what I’ve come up with:
1.) Actively sinning or disobeying God probably isn’t worship.
That’s pretty much it in terms of limiting the statement. Killing people for Jesus is probably a bad idea. (Although it appears season six of Dexter is going to explore this idea. Wee!)
Actually, there is one other thing. Here’s the deal, we all have our own passions and joys and I believe that God often puts them there. By actively doing the things you already enjoy, you may very well be worshiping God… But, there’s something else to it as well. The notion of worship is sort of like you’re setting something apart just for God. Essentially, like Abel, you’re offering him the best you have to offer whether that be singing or writing or running, or whatever. I’ve got nothing to back this up except my own anecdotal evidence, but it seems that actively setting this time apart helps.
What I mean, is that instead of just sitting down and playing a video game like you normally do, it’s a good idea to try and get your mind in a worshipful place. Think about God. Be open to how the thing you’re doing speaks to you about him. Listen to the little voice that speaks in the back of your head. If you approach it prayerfully, I think very nearly everything under the sun can be done for the glory of God, and bringing yourself one step closer to knowing him better.