Thursday, May 2, 2013

Raise a Hand

Sometimes, you just have to raise a hand in worship.  Yesterday, I even opened the moon roof on my car to facilitate such a grandiose display of holy praise.  (The song on the radio said I was raising my hand.  I couldn't sing and lie, could I?)

The question is: does it matter which way your palm faces when your hand is raised in worship?

It does.

Now, I'm generally kind of an out-to-the-side, palm-mostly-toward-me raised-hand worshiper.  It feels comfortable.  It feels natural.  It doesn't feel, you know, forced or fake.  And while I'm worshiping with arm outstretched, I kind of feel like I'm inviting God down into my presence, into my very being.  With that open hand toward me, it is like I am begging Him to come, my hand ready to guide Him into my heart.

That much, I have been aware of for awhile, anyway.  But the other night while worshiping at church, the lady in front of me raised her hands in worship - palms out.


Because I started wondering what that might mean, what that might be like, what her posture was saying to me and whether I should maybe consider that as a part of my worship stance.

The palm-facing-out raised-hand-of-worship to me said, "Here I am, God.  I come with open hands.  I have nothing and I can take nothing and I defer to You.  I am surrendering myself, offering myself wholly with no pretense and no expectations.  I stand before You, palms outstretched, to show my emptiness, to show my nothingness, and to submit myself before Your throne."

It was an interesting moment.  So of course, I turned my own hands around, just to see what that might feel like.

It felt like surrender.

It sounds silly, I know.  And that's a polite word for stupid.  It sounds like one more thing to think about and remember, one more tiny detail of the ritual of worship as we know it and as we do it, and that's contrary to much of what I advocate.  I mean, Prayse (my second book) is all about ditching the ritual for an honest heart and today, I write about the meaning in the ritual.  I get it.  I'm contradicting myself.  The baseline truth is that I don't like putting any more pressure on myself, or anyone else, to get anything "right" when it comes to God - church, prayer, worship, fellowship, communion, community - these are not things to worry about getting "right" when what we're really getting right is our hearts with God.

But it made such a powerful difference in the way I was standing there that I can't help but share these simple thoughts I have having.  There was a tangible shift in my heart, a physical feeling of something turning inside me as I turned my hand around in worship.  It was awkward.  It wasn't the way my hand would naturally go.  But it changed my heart, and I can't ignore that.

So I stood there in awe of the way God created us, the way we are so wired that such a simple thing could make such a big difference.  I was thinking about the way He has created me, more naturally tuned to open my heart to God and beg Him to enter into it.  I was thinking about the way He created my friend, the woman standing a few rows in front of me, more naturally tuned to surrender herself and show empty hands to the sovereign Lord.  And I was thinking about what it might mean for my life, and maybe for hers, and maybe for yours, if we would all be a little more conscious about living the other way from time to time.

Am I going to raise out-faced palms in worship all the time?  No.  It's not natural for me.  But I believe in the power of surrender, and I am going to start making conscious choices to include that devotion as part of my personal prayer and worship.

Would I expect my friend to turn her hands inward?  No.  It's clearly not natural for her.  But I would encourage her to consider the invitation she is making to God and not just her surrender because there is something good of God in that, too.

It's easy for worship to stagnate sometimes.  It's easy to get caught in the routine of everything.  We stand.  We sing.  We sit.  We stand.  We sing.  We sit.  We know the rhythms of the songs and how many times the worship minister is going to repeat that last chorus.  We know where the drum interlude goes and that the slides on MediaShout are obviously out of order.  We know when we're supposed to clap our hands and when we're supposed to raise them.  And it's easy to get worship mundane and almost miss it.

If you find yourself in one of those moments, I beg you not to give in.  Instead, give over and turn a hand.  Change the posture of your offering to God and see what change it makes in your heart.

It sounds silly (still a nice word for stupid), but it made a difference in me this week.  I'm willing to bet it would make a difference in you.

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