When Praise and Worship Felt Fake

elevation
This photo is from Elevation Worship.

I grew up seeing church people freely dance, shout, clap and raise their hands while singing Christian songs in church. I’ve heard a lot of reactions from people with different religions. “I was shocked because I wasn’t expecting a live band,” I heard my friend said who is raised Catholic and is used to solemn Christian music. He was pertaining to our worship team with complete musical instruments include drums, guitars and keyboard. “It’s like a cult. They raise their hands and they murmur weird sounds simultaneously. It’s absurd,” some say. Others tell that born again Christians are insane because they notice that such people aren’t ashamed to express emotion like jumping with joy and shedding tears during praise and worship service. I’ve belonged to a born again Christian family since birth so this kind of church activity isn’t new to me but I tried to put my feet in the shoes of first timer attendees with dissimilar beliefs. I can imagine that they may feel self-conscious with their gestures. They may likely to clap awkwardly and reluctantly not to appear out-of-place with the crowd and they might lift their hands only if asked by the worship leader or a pastor. They may verbalize, “I’m not comfortable,” and decide not to come back again. I understand their comments and also understand the nature of our church service. I am one of the ‘crazy’ Christians who aren’t embarrassed to show emotions while singing. I clap my hands till my palms turn red and sing out loud till my throat hurts. I lift my hands high like I can touch the heaven and my eyes are often misty.

One time, everything seemed weird. I found myself in the midst of singing crowd. The worship leader was out of tune and the back up worshippers were staring blankly at the sheet of paper. The sound of drums were too loud I could barely hear the sound of keyboard. I felt like something was wrong. What were these people thinking as they were raising their hands? Were they doing it out of habit or pressure? Some appeared bored. Others looked like they were just obliged. Was this practice really a cult? Was this how a cult functioned? The way they were swaying their bodies and twisting their heads erratically were urging me to cringe. Was God pleased seeing us like this? I questioned all that I was seeing and I was standing still, stiff, uneasy, and unwilling to move. Was I deluding myself into thinking that this was how genuine Christians were expected to act? The worship leader was a snob before and she was praying like a total saint here. She was singing with eyes shut but I saw her rolled her eyes at me last week. All of a sudden the whole scene felt fake. My hands were too heavy to clap or raise. My eyes wandered every corner of the room like this was some kind of a joke. I couldn’t hear my own voice or someone’s voice next to me because the music was too loud it sounded like a noise. I couldn’t wait to sit down because my knees were sore. I wasn’t enjoying anymore unlike the good old times and I doubted if these people were enjoying too. The next song wasn’t a great choice because its melody was impossible to learn or was it because the musical instruments weren’t synchronized? Lord, if I didn’t dance and sing with them does it mean I don’t love you anymore? I thought. But You see my heart, God and You know that I have adored You since I have accepted You as my Lord and savior. Why do I feel like this? Am I turning away from You? My mind was troubled and images of food flashed in my memory and I was in the church but my heart was at home eating egg pie and melon shake. A song of Elevation Worship snapped me back to reality. I wasn’t like this before because the last time I remember I didn’t want to stop singing. I was ecstatic then. I closed my eyes now because I was distracted by colorful lights which resembled disco lights in the club which was odd because church must occur holy. Lord, show me the truth, I started to pray though everything was a distraction to me. Were You really here in this place or was everything futile? Words from scriptures flashed in my mind.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. -Psalm 150:1-5 NIV

The music was escalating.

I need you to soften my heart and break me apart

I need you to open my eyes and see that you’re shaping my life

I wanted to focus on the song and taste every word of its lyrics and my lips slowly curved into a smile for it was sweet. My tense muscles begun to calm as the beautiful music filled the atmosphere. The truthfulness and sincerity of the lyrics soothed my heart and I started to feel at ease as though a heavy load within was pulled out. Every beat of drum, every strum of guitar, every singing voice was now making sense. I kept my eyes closed as I opened my heart to discern the truth because my heart could see what eyes couldn’t. My eyes see what is visible on the outside but a heart sees what is beyond. Are You here, Lord? I opened my mouth to sing my prayer to Him.

Give me faith to trust what you say

I was singing along on top of my lungs and allowing my skepticism evanesced. If it was fake then why my heart and soul were now convinced that it was right? I was owning the music like a personal message to God. Lord, give me faith because there were many things I liked to doubt. Teach me to trust in You. Remind me of Your goodness and love.

Give me faith to trust what you say that You’re good and Your love is great

All the great things God has done and has given to me instantly ran through my mind and my heart was completely overwhelmed with delight.

I’m broken inside I’ll give you my life

I was broken and He made me whole and my heart might be broken again and again and He will not stop picking up the broken pieces of me and create something beautiful out of it. I heard everybody was singing in unison. I heard everybody was crying out to Him. I heard everybody was making sounds of praises. They felt it too! I wasn’t alone. These people were as broken as me but God also made them new. These people understood the pain of life and the happiness in Christ. These people love God as I love Him. I opened my eyes and everything I saw was spectacular. I felt like I was in a heavenly party and everyone was having a great time of their lives. We were passionately singing in harmony. These people were bold in their faith. These people were sinners but God changed their hearts. These fellows were the people I love to spend eternity with.

I may be weak but Your spirit is strong in me

My flesh may fail but my God You never will

I glanced at the worship leader and instantly desired to be like her. I wanted to sing for God. I wanted others to know that I was singing to God so that others would be encouraged to sing. I wanted to please God with my music like what she was doing. I couldn’t see anything in her but passion for Jesus. She was unashamed to be out of tune. She sang with confidence and grace.

All I am I surrender

With eyes shut I look into myself and I was reminded of my flaws and ugliness. Do You see the scars of my heart, Lord? This is all I am, this is all I’ve got. Will You still accept me and love me? My soul was rejoicing because I knew His answer all along. I felt this place was where I belong and this was the truest thing that happened in my life. The next thing I knew was my hands were lifted high in total surrender.

All I am I surrender

This was not insanity because insanity means irrationality. But worshiping and praising God reminds me of the most logical thing in this world: I am a child of God. I am not a piece of crap that stinks. I have a God, a good and merciful Father who knows me more than I know myself. Insanity is a condition of losing sense of reality. But only the heart can see rightly. My mind would persuade me that all was fake and I could criticize and doubt the genuineness of every living soul and went home tired and restless. But when I started to close my eyes and listen to my soul. My soul was yearning for the existence of its Maker. I couldn’t deny the longing in my heart that only my Creator can satisfy. When I began to open my heart and soul, everything looked perfect. Everything occurred marvelous I wanted to holler my thanksgiving, my praise, my worship. Insanity is a state of being sick. But worshiping and praising God refresh my soul. The heavy burden in me is lifted up as I lift my hands to God. I feel healing. I find refuge. No drug can cure a weak spirit. No medicine can cure a weak soul. But only the One who made it.

This is the song, Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship.