Piling into the car the other day, my daughter reached for the dial on the radio. Tuning to one of her favorite radio stations, she began to sing along. Admittedly, I am not particularly fond of most of what passes for Christian music these days, but this time I was struck by the repeated references to self. The entire worship experience seemed to find its balance on the head of that one solitary letter “I.” But is this worship? And if so, who is being worshiped?
The thought of it pierced my selfish heart, and questions began to pour forth —
I wonder, do I love You for what You give me? Lord, have I worshiped You for the joy of what You offer? Is my love really so un-profound?
If my legacy is forgotten, my possessions turn to ash; if my endeavors turn about, to mock me in the end, would I worship You still?
If my friends form a wall of silent antipathy, leaving me stranded, alone, on the other side, I wonder, would I look for You still? Or would I turn my sullen back upon You and weep in shrill dismay?
If I lay my head to the familiar and awake to a landscape changed, would my startled eyes then worship?
Have I conjured an image on some phantom wind of promise; dancing with pagan footfall; seeking raindrops full of luck? Or are You a trick I pull out of some sacred bag? Are You my genie? Do I tout my praise to the fullness of the gong? Is it lip-service that I pay? Do I sing a song out of sync with the true intentions of my heart? Is my worship a cheap vaudeville display?
If I heard Your tread fall in pathways of unknown, would I crouch, Adam-like, in overgrown despair? If my heart beat in chorus with earth’s silent, muffled groans; if I knew You watched in the place of crushing, I wonder, would I follow You there?
Or would I sleep in the shadows — a half-hearted disciple. –Would I pause on the convenient line that passes from day to night, to slumber in the twilight? Would the voice of my boasting fade in the winds of selfish insecurity? Would I shy from Your flame as the voices call out,”Aren’t you one of His followers?”
If I could trace the ruby path of Your grace, and find Your glory nailed atop a Hill, and if the shadow of a cross intersected with my race I wonder, would I worship You still?
If the shadow of Your suffering overspread my bliss, and obedience led to me to count all things lost — If You asked of me all this — I wonder. Would I worship You still?
Somehow I am afraid to answer. I’ve a notion that, drawing the mantle of flesh close about me, I would flee into the darkness, there to sob in voiceless regret.
I would have felt self-righteous that day, had not the realization coincided with deeper, more personal revelations. Already, God had been about the work of wearing away my own gilded brand of selfishness; that is to say, He had steadily, and with the Gospel-light of infinite love, revealed a depth of glossed over altruism that pained me to see.This was the vision — this sudden confrontation with self — that lay within my mind’s eye as the music played that day.
I wish I could say that my selfish heart has since been overcome. It has not. But of this I am certain: I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:20). “… And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). On that day, the final vestiges of self and sin will fall away and I will worship in unmarred holiness.
Until then, there is grace. Bless His holy Name.