How Music Taught Me To Worship1
Music has always been a constant presence in my life. My earliest memories are singing in the car with my Mama, or sitting with Daddy going through his records. I loved and absorbed everything I heard.
Around the time I learned to read, which was about the age of five, I could stand in the chairs at the old hospital building and follow along with the hymnal. Memorization and song recognition have always been easy for me, and singing in church was my favorite part of Sundays. I had no idea what I was singing; I just knew I was participating.
As my teenage years approached, I would enter the sanctuary and immediately look through my bulletin at the hymns for the day. If it was music I knew, I’d be much more tuned into the rest of the service. If not, I usually got in trouble for writing all over the bulletin.
The summer after ninth grade was my game changer. I went to RYM for the first time. The big, nightly meetings began with hundred of teenagers singing these same hymns and some new songs with more modern tunes at the tops of their lungs. This was the key to finally opening my heart. This was worship and praise like I’d never experienced. My ears were finally hearing these beautiful words. My eyes were eager to read and understand. That week never lasted long enough for me. After retuning home each time, I would slowly slip back into my old patterns of not being drawn to worship if I couldn’t connect to the music.
Many years later, Channing and I found ourselves part of a church plant that met in a high school gym. Somehow, I ended up on the music team, helping lead hymns. We would meet very early to set up and rehearse. It was during these early hours that I finally learned what the phrase “prepare your heart for worship” meant. Spending that time focusing on the words we would sing moved my heart into the proper place to fully engage in worshipping the Lord and receiving His word. All other issues and thoughts would fade into the background. I experienced real joy. I couldn’t get enough. I would even feel slight disappointment when the services were over. I soon found myself longing for that joyful feeling in my everyday life. This was right in the beginning of smartphones and the explosion of digital music, and my genius husband became an excellent resource. Little by little, I began to grow in faith and strengthen my relationship with Jesus all because the music pushed me to want more.
In the past few years, when I’ve found myself separated from all of you in my church family, whether it was a child’s illness or my own, I have been able to lessen the pain of separation by constantly singing and listening to the music I know you’ve been singing in worship. Friends and fellow music ministry members have sent me recordings of anthems and special music moments that always leave me in tears. In the moments of fear, I have songs that calm and settle me. In the moments of joy, I have songs full of thanksgiving that have made me raise my hands in praise in the middle of my kitchen. One of the most significant, and personal moments happened November 1st of this last year. I was in the emergency room at St. Dominic in Jackson. I was terribly afraid, in excruciating amounts of pain, and often times very confused about what was happening. The chaos and the pain had become too much, but Channing knew what I needed. He laid my cellphone on my chest with “Boldly I Approach” on repeat. I immediately began to calm and my heart rate started to slow. I had something positive to focus on outside of the chaos. I don’t remember much else, I just know I was wheeled around on a gurney all night with that song playing as my prayer because I wasn’t capable of saying my own.
I don’t write this hoping to make everyone hear, love, or even see music the way I do. I know that most of you have already found that way to prepare and open your heart, and incorporate worship into your daily life. I write this for those who still may struggle with finding a way to fully connect. True, passionate worship takes many forms; worshipping and praise with music is just one of them.