Wordless Worship

Messy Church founder Lucy Moore rediscovers the meaning of worship.

I’m wrestling in a gloomy sort  of way with what worship is.  When I was in my 20s, I could  have described and defined it  with confidence and aplomb.  But now, with twice as much  life behind me, I find I have  less of a clue about anything  – and I’m struggling to do so 

I stare glumly at the words on the  screen, and can’t see the truths for the  clichés. Images of God as king, or his  ‘reigning on high’ seem outdated and  full of negative feudal implications in our  modern democratic society. Lyrics such  as ‘I fall down on my knees’ leave me  (against my better nature) peering round  the room to see if anyone’s actually  collapsing. And then, when I see no one  doing anything other than discreetly  swaying a little – because after all it is  10.30 in the morning and nobody gets  into emotion until 6pm at the earliest – I  try to justify the words by talking about  falling to the knees of my heart. But  this sounds squishy and anatomically  confused. ‘Worthy’ and ‘awesome’ make  my eyes narrow in suspicion. Anything  with ‘deeper’ or ‘pouring out’ provokes a  whimper of apprehension. I could go on  but know that my dissatisfaction stems  from a problem in me, rather than from  the songs themselves. Like someone  troughing a bar of exquisite Green and  Black’s chocolate every day so that the  taste buds finally no longer sit up and beg  for the treat, the poignancy and savour  disappear from the words because of  sheer familiarity. All very Laodicean and,  if you haven’t been there yourself, let me  assure you, it is bleakly uncomfortable. 

Life is something of a gallop from  place to place, idea to idea and project  to project at the moment. It was good to  get away for a couple of days and join in  a Christian community where I could just  relax and be without responsibilities. But  this arrogant and dreary sense of ‘heard  it all before’ haunted me even there.  Even concepts like ‘grace’, which were  once powerful and complex, provoked  in me a mean-spirited response of ‘Yeah,  yeah, yeah’. The songs and their delivery  left me flat. Just one thing moved me to  tears and I’m still trying to work out what  it means. Was it sentimentality? Or was  God trying to point out something? 

There was a middle-aged couple  there who had in their care two girls,  perhaps their daughters or maybe their  foster children. Both girls were severely  disabled and had very little muscular  control. They had wasted, immobile  limbs. If they spoke it was in grunts or  shrieks. But their hair was thick and  shiny, well-cut and brushed, and they  were dressed in pretty clothes. The  adults wheeled them around the paths in  brightly-coloured wheelchairs and took  them to everything that was on offer.  In the evening worship session, the girls  lay in their parents’ arms throughout, in  a gentle, sensitive embrace. The adults  responded telepathically to their every  need, glancing at them with love, and  to all appearances relishing the feel of  the child in their arms. Occasionally they  brushed the top of their head with a kiss,  propped them up to catch their breath,  wiped their mouths or rocked them in  time to the music. I never saw that family  look impatient, frustrated or hasty. 

On a scale of eternity, am I that child lying back, helpless and dependent in a devoted parent’s arms?

Is that worship? The total surrender to  God as he dwells in the people around us?  The drudgery of a long-term, thankless,  unnoticed sacrifice to a helpless child?  The acceptance of a burden that faith  turns into a joy? On a scale of eternity,  am I that child lying back, helpless and  dependent in a devoted parent’s arms,  so loved and cherished that I’m not even  aware of my severe disabilities? This  was worship for me at that moment; a  wordless mystery of worship that melted  clichés. So now I’m standing in a different  place. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be on  my knees soon.  

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