Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reason Number Five

Two experiences radically change our perception of the world:  First: travel that takes us a long way outside normal routines;  second: learning a new language.  

Why? They expand our awareness of our interior lives and our habits.  That which is normally rote and routine suddenly becomes challenging, even scary. 

Adventurous travel means going from the known to the much less known, or even the unknown. It carries some element of danger and discomfort.  Luxury travel packages seek to lessen that discomfort by surrounding the traveler with as many buffers as possible and by eliminating much of the risk of different places and customs.  However, those disruptions and differences themselves actually mark the life of the successful traveler.  They give insight into our daily norms and help us question why we do what we do.

Learning a new language offers similar insight.  We must think about each word and phrase. Especially for adults seeking to speak in another tongue, nothing comes easily.  We must work exceptionally hard to hear others and to make ourselves understood.  But the very act of learning another language also opens the brain to very different ways of thinking and perceiving the world.

Yet, few of us really travel adventurously (trips to amusement parks, even with multiple children in two, cannot be classified as "adventurous" travel), and even fewer of us here seek fluency in a language not our own. Most of us prefer the familiar.  It takes less energy to stick with what we know.

All this brings me to Excuse Number Five for avoiding times of gathered worship:  "I don't know the songs or the liturgy or the Scriptures or the customs."  Frankly, going into an unfamiliar worship experience can be much like landing in a foreign country where we don't have a clue has to how to read the road signs and there is no map to help out.  Verbal instructions sound like so much gibberish, as do all languages when we've never heard them before.  It's easy to get frustrated and embarrassed and decide, "Never again."  It can also change our lives so that things will never be the same again, and in a very good way.

The language concerning grace-filled living does not come naturally to most of us. Words that acknowledge our awareness and awe at the immanence and transcendence of a Holy God are radically different from our usual speech.  It takes practice to learn to speak this way. 

In addition, the music played and sung in different worship services challenges us. The language of classic hymns, often littered with "thee's" and "thou's" and archaic terms (does anyone really know what an Ebenezer is?) leave many puzzled, although such music is often filled with great theology.  Contemporary songs have their own problems and are equally unfamiliar to those not accustomed to them. And I haven't even begun to address the issue of liturgical vs. non-liturgical worship customs along with dozens of other unknowns that confront the novice worshipper.

But . . . I must ask this:  Why must it be "easy" to go to worship?  Why should we not demand the most of ourselves in order to acknowledge the greatness of God and seek to learn something that can and should expand our brains and souls to their greatest capacities?  

We live in a world where leisure, free time, electronics and visual stimulation have become gods to us.  We head to familiar chain restaurants in new cities because the familiar is easier. We avoid the challenge of the unfamiliar in order to keep from having to address the nature of our often stuck lives. How terribly sad that we miss the best because we won't discipline ourselves to embrace something different from the ordinary. Yes, it is difficult to walk into a worship space from which we have long been absent or one we have never seen before.  But it is worth it.

1 comment:


I am a sort of introvert. Not a full-fledged one, but one who has enough difficulty with newness that I could let it keep me away from things if I wasn't careful. I go to church, I like church, and I'm used to the settings and the doings. It's coming into a new set of people that tends to scare me and would keep me away if I let it.

Not because the people themselves are not to be known or liked, just that I really have to WANT to go where they are and get used to them. And that brings me to my point. It's not just
how scary is a new church with its hymns and responsive readings, its odd times of standing ups and downs, its varied ways of deciphering the Holy Word.

It's about this: How bad do you want it? How bad do you want to move through the scary and the wariness and get to a place that just might help you become whole?

I've always stood in awe at the courage and grace I see around me when I hear people trying to sing church songs. Many are hard, as Christy said, but the people in church have found something worth singing those songs about.

I have to really want the fellowship every time I come up to a group of new people, or sometimes even ones I already know, because if I didn't, I'd turn and walk away, every time.

Don't walk away from church.