Jamie is a self described recovering worship leader and blogs over at Rebooting Worship where she shares with raw honesty her journey of feeling disconnected from musical worship.
This post is lovely, timely and all about broken people healing through a gracious God. So without further adieu:
I used to thrive on musical worship. It filled my tank and made it possible for me to get through each week. I volunteered in the church choir and praise team. I majored in music because I wanted to use my voice for God’s glory.
Somewhere along the way, something changed.
Worship is no longer the magical experience it used to be. Cynicism has crept in. I watch from the crowd, hesitating to jump on the worship bandwagon. What used to be inspired music and lyrics is now nothing more than flashy lights, showy background slides, fog machines, and a performance.
There are several reasons for this, but a big part is the fact that I was suddenly aware of the ugly world of church politics.
Through the years, I’ve watched as my church has made decisions with which I don’t agree. Friends were deeply hurt by these decisions, and I fumed inside while they hurt and cried. I envisioned the church committee that made the decisions, filled with people that I used to trust. This place that felt so safe was suddenly anything but.
Stepping away from the music ministry while I pursued some mission work, I left home for a couple of years. When I returned, people asked when I was going to sing again. I bit my lip to fight back the ugly answer I wanted to shout in their face. Worship was now filled with animosity and anger. I didn’t want to be anywhere near this place, let alone on stage. I fought ugly emotions as I watched my church make other questionable decisions. I knew there was a lot going on under the surface, but all I could see were hurt people. I realized I was one of them.
I attended a Celebrate Recovery service, mainly out of curiosity. It was awkward at first, being surrounded by alcoholics and people with addictions. I was a well-adjusted, educated church girl. I didn’t need recovery.
Turns out I wasn’t as well put together as I thought. The more I attended this service, the more I got to know the people around me, including the drug users. These people were real. They were hurting and totally honest about it. I began to be honest about my hurts.
This service became my church service. The masks that were worn on Sunday morning were left at the door. When people asked how you were, they wanted an honest answer. If I had a crappy week, I wasn’t greeted with churchy clichés. My response was received with a smile and a “Thanks for sharing.”
I began to address some of my issues. I was greatly hurt by the things my church had done, even though they weren’t done directly to me. I talked through it, processed, and was able to approach it with a clearer mind. It still hurt, but it wasn’t such a jumbled mess in my head.
Through all of this, musical worship was still difficult. It hurt that something so special was now a stumbling block for me. It was in the midst of this struggle that I was asked to lead worship for Celebrate Recovery. I hesitated, thinking, “Really? Me? I’m so not a good person for this.” Don’t worship leaders have to have it all together?
Then I realized that this was the service filled with people who were not okay, and that was okay. Having a worship leader who was not okay was… okay.
So, with fear and trepidation, I accepted. I began leading worship for this motley group. I loved it. The musicians I worked with were talented and authentic. I got huge hugs from them each week, and the week that I was an emotional mess and couldn’t talk without crying, they sent me home and handled worship without me.
Although I still struggled with worship and the icky feelings, worship became a little safer.
I led for a year when my church again made some changes, this time affecting me. I struggled to offer grace. With the tools I had learned at Celebrate Recovery, it became easier.
I eventually stepped away from worship leading again, this time because of stress in my own life and a need to cut things from my schedule. I am far from all better and worship is still a struggle, but now I have tools I can use to process through the gunk.
The church is full of broken people, of which I am one. Coming to grips with that simple fact was so important for me. I will never find a church body that is perfect. I need to offer and extend grace to everyone in my path. I’m discovering that act alone is an act of worship.