When my brother, Ashley, died my mother asked me to sing at the funeral. I didn't know HOW I was going to do that, but I knew that I needed to. I have sung at many funerals, they are not my favorite place to sing. I have come to realize over the years it is my way of being able to minister to the family involved. In the past few years I have sung at a couple really tragic funerals, young children. These funerals were so difficult, I prayed for strength for every word, every note. I knew that the words of the songs were so important to bring healing, and love. Now I had to sing at my own family's funeral, and I couldn't even begin to think it through. Usually the family will request a certain song, and I am very willing to follow their request. Mom didn't have a song, she said whatever I did would be just right. I struggled and prayed and for a song. Every word was different now - every note was louder.
It really wasn't until 2am the night before the funeral that I settled on one. I went down to the hotel lobby that morning to print out the words, because I knew I would need them. We had the viewing first, and then the service - it was harder than I could ever imagined. Edwin (my husband) was giving the eulogy, and we both were white-knuckled-holding-on-with-everything-to-Jesus, that afternoon. I sang "It Is Well", a capella. Knowing that the man that wrote that song wrote it in his grief, after his daughter's drowned, gave me solace. Only by the very strength and grace of God did I get through. It was by faith alone I could stand there with tears streaming down face and sing "It is well with my soul".
Somewhere after the funeral I lost my voice. I didn't literally loose my voice, I could still sing - but I lost the will to sing, and the love for music. The Christian radio which we played 24/7 in our house and car was just piercing noise to me. I couldn't listen. Choir practice and worship hurt my heart so bad I could barely stand it. Words and songs that I had sung just a month earlier with all I had in me - I could barely utter the words. Everything felt different, it sounded different, the words were now all different - I was different. I can honestly say that it wasn't that I didn't believe those songs anymore, but my perspective on them changed. Words like "faith", "trial", "burden", "hope", "heaven", "hell" - they all had a tangible meaning now. I had to find my voice again.
So here's a few things I've learned and am still learning about singing and more importantly worship.
- I learned that it was OK to worship God with my sadness, with all my tears, my hurt, and my pain - for the world to see.
People need to see not just our laughing and our dancing, but our sadness too- it makes us real.
Even Jesus wept, or mourned - and people were moved by that.
John 11:35-36 Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
God wasn't showing me that I couldn't be happy, or that I should spend my worship time lamenting in sorrow - but just to be real.
My brokenness will minister to people, and myself, far more than my pride ever will.
- I learned to worship God in silence.
In fact sometimes I've been so concerned over how great the music sounds, or even how I sound that I couldn't hear his still small voice. I needed to shut everything up, and listen.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 King 19:11-12
- I was reminded who the worship was for.
Worship wasn't about me, it wasn't for the congregation, it wasn't to fill in space before the sermon - it was FOR GOD, TO GOD, and ABOUT GOD. (Sometimes I think we say that but we don't really live that)
- Worship is powerful!
When you are in the throes of grief, depression and sadness can overtake you.
When I realized that the songs I am singing aren't for me - they are for Christ and as I sing about how faithful He is, and how thankful I am - His presence fills my sadness - and the enemy has no place to be.
It's OK to hurt, it's OK to be in pain - Satan wants to leave you there alone - God wants to join you - right where you are.
God started me on this journey the day I sang at Ashley's funeral. It's a journey I'm still on. I can sing again, with the radio - and even on Sundays. But Worship isn't a song, it's not even music - worship isn't about the lighting, a guitar, a horn, or even an organ. Worship is realizing how broken we are, and how perfect He is - in every moment of every day of our lives.
But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24