It was the worst birthday present ever. At least that’s what I thought. I was turning 8, he was pushing 30, and we hardly knew each other. Yeah, he was my brother. Technically. But it’s not like we grew up together playing Hot Wheels or riding bikes.
What did he think I would do when he handed me that big, heavy rectangle wrapped in wrapping paper? Of course I tore off the paper in excitement. What could it be? A box of Transformers? A new video game console? And it was… a dictionary.
So I started crying. Right in front of him. No thank-you, no forced smile — no emotional intelligence on my part. I was just thinking of myself. And I was disappointed. And he just left the house and was gone.
Since then I’ve felt bad about that moment. I wish I could have gone back and done it differently. I would have at least said thank-you, forced a smile, maybe even a little hug.
But what’s the point of birthday gifts anyway? To indulge 8-year-old boys? Maybe that dictionary was just what I needed. Because God keeps doing the same thing to me, and I keep responding in the same way.
Doing it Wrong
Here’s what God gave me: The ability to worship Him through music. At age 13, I learned to play guitar, sing, and write songs. That’s a gift.
Then He gave me opportunities to play on worship teams, lead worship, and to be on staff with a worship ministry. He might has well have given me a dictionary.
My place was the garage. With the amps feeding back. With the drums waking up the neighbors. My place was the club. With the smell of cigarettes, smoke machines, and beer. The sound check, the green room, the show. The line outside, the merch tables…
That’s what reached me. That’s how I wanted to reach others. But here I was, stuck in the church.
I wasn’t playing to the crowds. But I was playing to the faithful. To those who gave their lives up as a living sacrifice. Who had no better place — no other place — to be but on their knees.
Who are these people? And why do they hang around when I play these church songs? What is really going on?
Maybe I’m being tested. Maybe, if I sing the God-songs, He’ll use His infinite power to bring some more people to my next show. Maybe we’re in some mutually beneficial relationship, albeit an unhealthy one.
That’s Strike Two for me. That dictionary was a gift of love. My brother was saying, “I love you”. Now my God is saying, “I love you”.
Maybe King David got it. He was a man after God’s own heart. They had (have) a special relationship.
Remember when the ark was being brought into Jerusalem? His response was to strip down remove his royal garments and dance. With all of his might. Bible says he was “whirling and twirling”.
David removed the garments that identified him with royalty in order to worship God. He cast off his royal status before Him. He lost himself. Who acts like this today? A world leader? Losing himself in public?
A long time ago, the Israelites in the desert tragically decided it was in their best interest to worship a golden calf. It says that after they made sacrifices and sat down to eat, they “got up and played”. The source text implies “laughing in a playful manner”.
Laughing, playing, whirling, twirling. These all point to something: the desire to cast off inhibition. I need something to whirl and twirl about. I need something that warrants a total casting off of the social order — of all inhibitions. I need to somehow get to that place where I totally lose myself.
This is a big theme in culture: “lose yourself to the music,” “go wild to the beat.”
“Lose Yourself To Dance” by Daft Punk
I get it. I’ve been there. But no human being or human creation has the ability to properly receive my deepest adorations. None are worthy of the casting-off of all my inhibitions.
If I lose myself to this stuff, I only end up lost. And then I have to go find myself again. All this does is drain my time and resources — my life. It keeps you in an endless cycle of working to find yourself just so you can lose yourself again. And in the end, nothing gets accomplished. That’s not the kind of life I want for myself.
…To Find Yourself
But when I lose myself in worship to God, I find myself. He is the only one worthy to receive my loss of inhibition. And that’s how I’m supposed to worship Him.
Not as a means to an end. Not as something that will make me more righteous. Not as something that will open more doors for work/ministry/recognition in life — no. Worship itself is the reward.
So, when God gives you the gift to worship Him, don’t think that it’s going to lead you anywhere in life other than closer to Him. And if you can’t appreciate that, you’re like an 8-year-old boy crying on his birthday. You’ve just been given a gift, and you don’t even realize it.