A few weeks ago I auditioned on the guitar to play on the worship band at my church. It went really well (I guess I “passed”) because I was invited to play for the two services that Sunday. I was thrilled, I hadn’t lead worship (or really played guitar) for four years. Four years. Why is that?
I started playing guitar at age 13. I wanted to play the violin but never got around to lessons. During this time my dad was buying and selling guitars on the side so we always seemed to have an extra guitar around that I could fiddle around with. I loved it. I learned quickly. And I was good. Pretty soon I was competent enough to lead worship for my dad’s small group (back then we called them home fellowships). During this time I was even in and out of a few bands. Even though I loved worship, and leading worship (I felt God strongly urging me to continue to play guitar and lead others in worship) I preferred running the soundboard, or anything really besides being in front of people. And then…
…we moved to from San Diego, CA to Cherokee, IA six years ago. Now there’s nothing wrong with Cherokee, but at age 17 there’s a lot of things that can lead to depression when leaving Southern California for the Midwest. But the God was faithful, and my guitar, Blondie, was my lifeline, my way of communication, with God. I didn’t lead worship at first in Cherokee, but I played 30+ hours a week. It was glorious, yet painful.
Through all that pain however, God shaped within me a heart of worship–at least more than I had ever had before. A heart where it wasn’t about how a song was played or how talented the musician was, a heart about bowing before the Most High glorious God in complete adoration and submission. I would lead worship at the fellowship my dad was pastoring at the time (Calvary Chapel of Cherokee), and those were some of the most blessed and intimate worship services I ever participated in.
But it was downhill from there. I got good. Really good. And I knew it. And it didn’t help that I was blessed with the best guitar ever. And pretty quick my times of leading worship shifted from having an appropriate attitude of my heart to having the best flow, medley, song arrangement, key, vocals, guitar licks, emotion, and me. Lots of me. I went to college not far from home, so I was able to continue in this pattern of selfish worship–not just at church but in groups at college too.
You should see that it was no surprise that leading worship, and even playing guitar, became shallow and empty. God pulled out a mirror through some close friends and mentors to show me how ugly I appeared to him during these times of “worship”. I was conceited, my heart was furthest from being right, and it was absolutely repulsive. My family moved again two years after arriving in Cherokee to Florida and I stayed behind this time to finish college. And I stopped playing guitar Fall of 2007. Completely. I played twice: one week in Israel Spring 2008 and for a friends wedding in June 2010. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the times I opened my guitar case from Fall of 2007 to May 2010.
3.5 years later I play guitar once a week. Sometimes for Julia. Sometimes to goof around. And almost always to remember the Lord’s faithfulness to me. To change my heart. In those three and a half years the Lord did a work in me and my view of worship. I had skewed it and polluted it with my flesh back in ’06-’07. He needed to rip me out of the picture. There is no room in worship for God and self. Not even God and. Just God.
I fought back hard. I liked me in the picture. I liked the praise of men, the attention, the accolades. After a year of active battle, I resigned, I became apathetic. I didn’t go to church, and when I did I’m pretty sure I mouthed the words. Someone challenged me to read the Psalms. I dutifully read the Psalms for 2 years (and still read them). Through reading those psalms, those honest pleas, those sincere cries, I began desiring to play guitar again. And it’s been glorious, simply glorious.
I would love to continue to play but I’m so hesitant that history will repeat itself. But it’s not about me, it’s about bringing God the glory due his name. But God’s grace is enough, and He will provide and lead. I do have a few brothers who keep me accountable, and I have/will have them do this as well, I do not pretend that I can keep my head on straight by myself anymore (this walk is not a solo journey after all).
Why share all this? To make much of Christ. To be real. Honest. To point specifically how Christ has been faithful in my life and walk, and hopefully encourage (or caution) you.
So I ask, what constitutes a heart of worship to you? How do you prepare yourself to worship the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth? I encourage you to watch the video below. It has refreshed and renewed my soul many a days, and it’s from Psalm 62, an influential Psalm in my life the past three years.