The War and the Refrigerator Door
When I turned 18 I moved out from my parents house. Not because of any animosities or anything, it was more because my friends had a place and I was dumb enough to think that it was better to be out on my own than saving money and living with my parents. It’s a decision I still regret when I think about it.
I remember loading up all my things to drive two blocks away and live behind a Toys R Us. My mom wasn’t too crazy about the idea but what moms ever are when they see their babies leave the nest? She grabbed me as I was picking up one of the final loads and took me into the garage and pointed to about 8 large Tupperware storage bins and said
“Those are yours too whenever you want to take them”
Never really noticing them before, I asked what they were and she told me that they contained every drawing, note, project, medal, endeavor, and memory that I had given to her since I was young enough to pick up a crayon.
“I want you to be able to show your kids someday, it’d be a neat treat for them to see the things you made”.
I was floored and amazed that she’d kept so much of what I considered junk. Scrap drawings and colorings, notes that made no sense whatsoever. Nick-knacks and cobbled together sculptures. So I asked her.
“Why did you keep all of this?”
My mom turns to me and says.
“Because you made them, and you gave them to me because you love me”.
My 18 year old self left those bins at her house for a few more years before picking them up once Awnna and I had gotten married and found some space for them.
Fast forward to the text message that brought us to Oregon and I remember telling my mom that we have to move “light” and some of the bins wouldn’t be able to come with us. I sorted through a number of them and found things that I knew my new twin daughters would appreciate. I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest but Mom stepped in again.
“I’ll hold on to them for you, just in case. Besides, you made them”.
Being a worship leader I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse of the worship culture I’m a part of. Knowing trends and where they are moving; discerning if I follow or plow my own course. Knowing the songs that will work in the church I’m leading. Which music is for me alone and which is for a group? Understanding the flux and tide of worship music can be a challenge.
Making it exponentially harder is the opinions left by the influence of social media. Finger on the pulse, I follow a number of worship oriented pages, and blogs, and podcasts, and website and such. You’d be amazed, or maybe you’re already aware, at the chasm-like opinions regarding styles, songs, environments, artists, lyrics, melodies, instrumentations, rearrangements, and the list goes on.
Some of the opinions I read or hear can be open or honest. Some constructive and thoughtful, and even others can come across as borderline poisonous vitriol. There’s no shortage of fuel for the ongoing illusion of the “Worship Wars”.
The irony in the Worship Wars title is that wars, in the human history, have show that there are casualties on all sides, and of all kinds. Death of a son, in the conflict of war, also means there is a mother, father, sister, or brother who is now without someone they love.
War destroys, it never brings life.
With that line of reasoning then, the idea of Worship Wars means that everyone loses. And there is always collateral damage. Families of families and friends of friends.
So how did we get from drawings of my childhood to an analogy of war?
Stay with me.
First, the war.
About a month ago I was settling into bed when I stubbled across an article on one of the worship pages I follow. The article, about the current stylings of worship, was harsh. No, it was more than harsh, it was unnecessary poison pointed directly at style.
By the end of the article I felt ill.
Now, I could suppose upon the writer a number of assumptions that sweep away the degrading and defaming tone but the truth of the matter was that I was seeing, before my very eyes, someone intentionally aim down their sights towards a specific style of worship music.
The writer attacked the more recent contemporary stylings but I’ve seen hurtful writings about traditional worship, as well as the emerging worship styles brought forth by generation z. It doesn’t really matter who is in the cross hairs what matters is that there is crosshairs at all.
All types of war is terrible and there are never winners when one group of people feels they have the right to destroy another, whether through words or deed.
The war needs to stop.
Second, the drawings.
My twin girls, being two now, have gotten to the place where they color, and draw. Or I suppose should say that someone else helps them draw or instructs them in their crafts during the childcare hour at my church.
It doesn’t matter though, they still proudly gift their work upon my wife and I and we proudly display the colors and projects throughout the house.
Is it their best work? I dunno. Will it get better? I’m sure it will. Will they continue to give it to us?
I hope so.
Their creativity and their gift is something we treasure as their parents. It’s something they took time to do and it’s something they did for us.
Because they love us.
Much like my mom keeping the artwork, and projects, and keepsakes I made for her.
I hope you see where I’m going with this.
Our worship to God is like those colored fractals hanging on the refrigerator door. They’re messy, imperfect, unique and altogether beautiful because they are a gift.
A gift given because we love our God. And God will never turn away a gift of worship that’s presented in a child-like way.
Our worship through different styles and types of music is something the Father celebrates. It doesn’t matter what the lyric says, or the melody, or the instrument, or whether it was read from a book, a screen, or memory. It doesn’t matter if it was sung by fifty people, fifty-thousand, or five. The music can be cobbled together or expertly practiced and played. God isn’t concerned about the specifics. God is concerned about the heart.
The lights can shine or not, and the volume can be loud or it can be soft. The musicians can even be playing for their own glory, but if someone in that time of worship proudly hands God their heart completly, God will be the proud Father who displays that worship upon the celestial refrigerator door.
Because the worship was given in love.
(Just a quick disclaimer here — I talk about musicians playing for their own glory. I want people to read here that the worship leaders I lead with every Sunday are some of the most selfless, humble people I’ve ever lead with. We aim, together, to point the spotlight at Jesus every time we pickup our instruments or stand on the stage. The analogy was directed towards a line in the article that I read — Now on to our regularly scheduled blog post.)
It’s human nature to have preference, and opinion. It’s also human nature to want to control the way other people believe or have preference and opinion. This is the way wars are started. Physical and metaphorical.
So here is my challenge to you worshipper, worship leader, pastor, church-goer, church-non-goer, friend…
Approach worship as a child approaches a blank piece of paper. A moment of endless opportunity. Sometimes you’re given crayons when all you really wanted was markers, or paints, or colored paper and glue sticks, but then you remember; This piece of art is for your parents, and they don’t care about the medium as much as you do. All they care about is that you thought of them when you made it, and you made it in love.
There are moments for markers, moments when your art is on point. But there are also moments where the Teacher stretches you by giving you the macaroni and string. That doesn’t mean you don’t work any harder at making something amazing to give your Father.
Worship is about where our focus goes, not how our focus gets there.
Worship has always been about God, and for God. An extension of ourselves to a King worthy of our attention and affections.
So this Sunday, Wednesday, prayer meeting, bible study, worship night, friend-gathering, youth group, kids service, or whenever you meet with intention…
Pick up the crayon, dear friend, it’s time to make a beautiful, fractaled, mess for the celestial refrigerator door, and give your best regardless of the medium, because you give it to the Father.
And give it passionately, because you love God.