Earlier this week I had coffee with a delightful woman whose family does not listen to much music. My understanding is that it's a sound issue where they can't handle the volume level. They went to a concert and had to leave because the sound stimulation was too much.
I tried to envision what my life would be like without music. I almost always have music playing. If it's not on, there's probably a song running through my head. Concerts are my family's bonding activity.
We've gone to the same multi-day Christian music festival for nine years. Our record is six Mark Schultz concerts in one calendar year. We sit around quoting "As Is" by Peder Eide as if "Samson was a long-haired, arrogant womanizer" is a perfectly logical thing to say in conversation.
If it weren't for music, we'd probably have to watch movies or take up karate like normal people.
When I talk about Lifest, I tell the silly stories: the standing ovation earned by a water bottle, the mud so bad our van had to be pushed into the parking lot, using my lawn chair as an umbrella, etc.
But I think about it, I think about worshipping with Phillips, Craig, and Dean as the rain gently fell on my face. I think about kneeling on fist-sized gravel to stretch my arms up to my Abba Father like a child wanting to be held. I remember Peter Furler (when he was in Newsboys) talking about God's perfect timing only to have a nearby train interrupt his sentence.
Can I worship without music?
I love how the Lord gets my attention through songs I've heard a million times. I get a taste of heaven when strangers unite as a family to sing praises to our Father. I didn't perform "My Savior, My God" in ASL in front of a crowded room of Nicaraguan believers; I worshipped my Savior, my God with my hands.
Through music may be one of my favorite ways to worship, but it's certainly not the only way.
To affirm or encourage someone, that's worship. To serve and love on someone, that's worship. To hug someone, to squeeze a shoulder as you pass, to look someone in the eye. Worship. To genuinely ask how someone's doing, to sit down and share life over a cup of coffee, to bring lunch to an under-employed freelance writer. Worship. To dance, to play ping pong, to sign, to make copies, etc. they can all be worship. (My thoughts on this have been heavily influenced by TASTE Worship--check it out).
In Guatemala, there was a day I was "forbidden" to sing and sign. I worshipped that day. I removed flecks of orange paint from a brush and bucket, and it was worshipful.
Can I worship with music?
Last summer, I remember running through the park arguing with God about being twenty minutes late to a forty-minute show. He brought to my attention that I was not approaching the concert with the right heart.
It wasn't the first time.
How often do I attend a concert just to add another artist to my repertoire? How often do I absent-mindedly sing along without realizing what I'm saying?
These questions hurt because I am ashamed of their answers.
Even at Christian concerts, my heart is not always in the right place. I've sung along, I've waved my arms, I've screamed at the top of my lungs, and I hate to confess it has not always been for the Lord.
It happens under a rain-free sky. It happens in a crowded, dark auditorium. It happens in my church on Sunday mornings. It happens to me more often than I care to admit.
I voluntarily took a day this week and turned the music off. I washed dishes in silence. I drove across town in the quiet. I worked without any accompaniment.
It was weird and awkward at first but then it became peaceful.
Weird and awkward at first. Uncomfortable and strange. But then peaceful, wonderful, and necessary.
Whether you're a person who loves to literally feel the beat of the drums or just prefers white noise in the background, take some time this week to worship with the radio off.
Let me know how it works for you.