What is it about me that is so fixed on *things*?
When I was in high school, there was a time when my whole spiritual life was bound up in worship music. Part of this was because I was part of a group of friends that had formed a mini-culture around worship music as the highest expression of worship or ministry. Forget the low calling of the pastor, we wanted to be true spiritual leaders – worship leaders! But this was only amplified by the fact that I had just discovered a tremendous backlog of high-quality worship recordings, and there was a huge Christian book and music store just down the street. I was so addicted to the stuff that I don’t think I would have really believed you to hear that it was possible to worship God outside some kind of musical expression.
Since worship was solely an expression of adoration in my mind, it seemed to follow that the best form of expression of my love for God would be the most intimate, “powerful” encounter. Ideally, this was simply my own personal expression of “the gratitude and brokenness that comes from intimately knowing almighty God,” but better music obviously makes that kind of heartfelt expression easier, so my approach to worship gradually began to hinge on the quality of the music I was listening to.
In one sense, that was bad, because our worship should never have to depend on externals. In another sense, though, it was kind of fortunate because I had access to so much really good worship music. Insofar as worship *is* adoration, I was worshiping quite a lot, albeit with a sort of crutch.
Of course, since we were young men in a tightly knit group, a little rivalry started to seep in (at least for me). I don’t think that I ever went so far as to try to compare experiences, but I do remember a certain pride in being the first kid on the block to acquire the newest great worship CD. I subscribed myself to Vineyard Music Group’s “Touching the Father’s Heart” series, which was putting out about four really high-quality recordings per year. They were great. I knew they were great, and I knew I got them about a week before they appeared in stores.
Once, my new CD showed up in the mail just as I was about to leave for church. Oh, how I crowed when I got that thing in my hands! I didn’t have a CD player in the car, but I knew it was going to be good, and I couldn’t wait. I threw it into the passenger seat as I hopped behind the wheel and lead-footed it to the church to share my new worship experience with my friends a full week and a half before it was available in stores! I could feel the presence of God all over me, and I began to sing at the top of my lungs.
About five minutes later, I stopped. What was I singing about? I hadn’t even listened to the CD. Was I really worshiping God at all? Or was I showing all the emotional effects because I was excited over a *thing*? What kind of worship is that?
Today, ten years later, I got a package in the mail from Gordon-Conwell Seminary. In it was a book by Cornelius Plantinga called “Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be.” They’ve sent this book to all their new students for a little summer reading before classes start, and as a prep for a lecture by Plantinga at the Seminary the first month of classes. All day I’ve been tired, and for the last few weeks, I’ve had a vague trepidation about the huge leap we’re taking by moving to Boston to go to all these expensive schools. I really enjoy the kind of thinking I’m going to be expected to do, which actually makes me nervous, since it hasn’t been my experience that things I enjoy doing for their own sake have been very economically profitable.
But I like Plantinga. And here I’ve got a free book by him. And where I’m going to school, highly respected theologians are the general fare of visiting speakers. Furthermore, the enclosed letter also says that Dr. Richard Lints will be leading a series of student discussions during the year. Dr. Lints was the professor for one of my favorite classes I’ve taken so far, so I’m doubly excited. He’s a guy whose brains I’d really like to pick.
In the space of five minutes I’ve gone from both a day’s weariness, and a month long apprehension about school, to rolling enthusiasm, all because of a book. I read a chapter or so over dinner tonight, and I was having to stave back outrageous emotional responsiveness to the text. Best mood I’ve been in in some time.
What is it with me and *things*?