I have a paper due in a few days in my class on worship. The task is simple: say *something* about worship in about 5 pages. Interact with three books. And I’ve been hitting a brick wall. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about worship. Oh golly. It’s that I’ve got too much. So for the next few days, I’m going to be inflicting you, my dear readers, with some of the things I’ve had to work through in order to get on to writing the paper. It’s hopelessly biographical I’m afraid, so I do hope you’ll forgive me. It’s also incredibly long, so I’m going to be breaking it up over a few days. By the time you get to the part that pertains to my paper, the paper (God willing) will already have been turned in.
Worship has been at the center of how I defined myself for the better part of my life. Worship was who I was. I was the worship guy. Worship is what I was all about. At that time, I understood worship to be a kind of mystical experience. When God meets with man, and man sees God for even a piece of who he is, man is both lifted up and demolished, and this… experience… is what I called worship. I have something of a philosopher’s nature in me, so I parsed theories about how worship worked. Worship could be had in private or in groups of various sizes. Worship could be expressed, as God used people to reveal God’s Spirit, character, and nature to other people. This expression came out in the form of spiritual gifts and various arts which could be used to communicate in worship. However, the soul of worship was ultimately in the experience itself, somewhere between catharsis and illumination. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The process of being transformed, as I understood it, consisted of worship.
But in about 1999, my life came to a crashing halt. Everything I thought I had built my life upon turned out not to have enough substance to get me anywhere. It’s very difficult for me to describe this time, because there’s nothing I can point to particularly that was *wrong*. It was just that nothing was particularly *right*. I was training for ministry at a church that had no particular use for my contribution – but why is it exactly that I needed them to need me? I was lonely – though I had never before cared if I had friends. I was going through one of those classic spiritual dry times, and I should have been content to recognize it as such and ride it out. But things just didn’t add up. All around me everything was as ideal as I had ever imagined it, and yet I was discontent – crying, agonizing, discontent. Something in my worldview – my theology – was incomplete. And I didn’t have the first clue what it was.
So I started everything from scratch. Continue reading “Assimilation”