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Over the years, as I have heard different preachers and conference speakers, I have periodically heard a sentiment about expressing joy and worship. It was often expressed like this:
“When you’re watching a football game and your team scores, what do you do? You Cheer! You burst out of your seat and pump your fist and yell and clap and slap five with those around you!. So why aren’t you like that toward God? You should express that same kind of excitement and joy toward Him!”
Every time I heard it, it struck me as not quite right. I felt both a sort of squeamishness and a fair amount of guilt for not cheering for God (but not enough guilt to ever get me to actually do so.)
What is wrong with this idea? It almost seems right that we should offer God the same emotional response we do to musicians or athletes when they excite us, right? Why did it bother me so? Was it my heart that was off-base?
Only when I began to consider the expression of deep emotion did the pieces start to fall into place. Does a groom pump his fist and jump around when his bride first appears at the back of the church? Does a first time father let out a primal yell when he is handed his minutes-old baby? When my wife comes around the corner and I’m struck again by how beautiful she is do I applaud and whoop my appreciation? No, the deepest emotions, the strongest joys are not released in the loudest ways. They render us speechless, tearful, grinning uncontrollably, weak-kneed, overwhelmed - and often all of these at once. It is only the shallower feelings that are easily expressed with exuberance and volume.
It is unfair to demand that people treat God the way we do our favorite team. Unfair to God, that is. He is too great for applause and cheering to adequately express the love and joy he births in us. He is bigger than our fandom and exuberance. If my love for my children can mute me, how much more an infinite God?
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This isn’t to say we shouldn’t attempt to express our deepest feelings (for loved ones or God). Quite the opposite, in fact. But we can be free from the guilt trip of exuberance. Instead of primal, mindless decibels of praise we should pour forth thought and care in our words and tears and smiles. We should express with our hearts instead of our guts. And we should practice putting these deepest feelings into words. Journal. Pray. Write letters. But know that the deepest feelings are not expressed the loudest, and they are best when expressed often no - matter how inadequate our articulations seem.