I sought the ultimate worship experience like Arthur sought the Holy Grail. I went to church at least four times a week. I didn’t miss a prayer service, worship service, Sunday school, board meeting or any other event where people would be asking God to "show up." It seemed like everyone else was having all sorts of amazing experiences with God, but I was just having mediocre worship services. One man from my church said to me following a Sunday evening service, "You couldn’t have been in that room tonight and not felt the presence of God!" I wanted to respond, "I was there tonight, sir, and all I felt was the thump of the bass drum, and even that was off beat."
I quickly began to realize that even in the "most powerful" worship service, it still felt like something was missing. The emotions were certainly there. The music was indeed very good. But it seemed like no matter how great (or disappointing) the music or the emotional high was, I left every worship service feeling like I had been robbed. I don’t like being robbed, so I decided to seek God’s wisdom on real worship. I knew there had to be more, but I had no idea what that meant.
It’s amazing what God will show us when we come to Him honestly and let Him answer our questions. He started off by showing me that, much to my surprise, real worship has no more to do with Sunday mornings and songs in the key of G, than it does with lunch on Tuesday afternoon and a good cup of coffee. The place I can most clearly see Him is not a steepled building with witty phrases on a sign out front. The highest act of worship I could ever perform is not to sing well or lift my hands or dance or go to the ultimate church service, but to simply seek God, just as I am. After all, He created me in His image, and set my heart after the things of His heart. There is nothing I can do that reflects the glory of God more than to be the person He created me to be, doing what He created me to do. He didn’t command me to go to church four times a week or to buy every CD from Passion. Christ didn’t come and suffer and die and rise from the dead to give us free admission to a killer worship service and a few minutes of emotional rush. He came that we could have real life, and what could be more real than to take hold of the identity God has put in me, to live the life He laid out for me? This is why King David says the only thing he seeks is to dwell with God and to see His beauty. This is where David was created to be. This is what he was created for. This is what all of mankind was created for. And it is in that place where our desires are fulfilled, where our lives are made complete.
And it gets better! I’ve never been to a worship service that didn’t have to end. But guess what? When you take hold of your identity, rooted in and sustained by the love of God, it doesn’t end! There’s no closing prayer. No "with every head bowed and every eye closed, please raise your hand if you … " There’s no rush to beat the church next door to Pizza Hut for lunch. There’s no "I wish the worship leader wouldn’t play this song, it seems like we play it every week," because there is no worship leader! All our desires are completely and continuously fulfilled, because at last, by nothing short of the miraculous grace of God, we have found a place we can call home, we have found One we can call our Lover and our Friend and our Father and our God and our everything.
As C.S. Lewis puts it, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased." We are sitting around waiting for God to fulfill our hearts with worship services, when He wants us to see that the only satisfaction we can find will be in Him.
Jesus said that we will get what we ask for, and we will find what we seek (Matthew 7). Most people understand this simply as it applies to prayer. But I think it says a lot about our expectations as well. If all we expect from God is an emotionally invigorating worship service lead by an awesome band, then we will very quickly find what we are looking for. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but the problem occurs in worship when there’s no real contact with God.
Now, three years and countless worship services later, I’m beginning to come to a different conclusion on what worship is really all about. Personally, if a "great worship service" is all God has to offer me, and all I have to offer God, I’m not interested. Count me out. Here, you can have my seat.
What my heart aches for, what I believe all our hearts ache for, is something REAL. This is why we will never leave a worship service feeling completely satisfied. This is why our relationships on this earth can never give us what we need and want. We were made for something so much better than the most powerful of worship services or the best of friends. And if we would only seek it, we would find it revealed to us in God.
Now, about that cup of coffee …