Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things That Kill Worship: Self-Awareness

Sixth grade was really hard for me. At the beginning of that year, the cruel realities of social order and brand-name clothing came crashing in on me. That reality became more cruel when I quickly realized that I was at the bottom of the social order, and that my clothing style was the example of how not to dress. Everything I enjoyed turned out to be uncool. Like to play the trumpet? Guilty. Uncoordinated and can't dribble a basketball? Guilty. Are you so skinny that no one can tell the difference between your sternum and your spine? Guilty.

At the risk of sounding like a nutcase, I hated my life that year. Not because my school was depressing, although it was. And not because I didn't have many friends, although I didn't. I think I was miserable because I didn't like myself that year. And I think I didn't like myself that year because I thought about myself incessantly. Everything I did or said was filtered through the questions of "how will this appear to them?" or "what will they think of me?" As I think back on that year, I remember it as overcast and cold, always rainy. I would wake up early in the morning, look and the mirror, and just dread going to school. I remember having the thought, "Who is going to be mean to me today?" I tried so hard to be perfect, to make sure everything on my person was in its proper place. That way I wouldn't be a target for anyone. So I was careful that my braided leather belt was straight, and that my brown Eastland loafers were tied just right.

I was drowning in my own self-awareness.

Now my job is to lead people in worship through music. There are lots of people who participate and sing along. But there are lots of other people who just stare back at me with their hands in their pockets and wait for the service to be over. Part of my job is to figure out how I can lead those people to a place where they can experience God in worship. What are their obstacles?

I think one of the things that keeps people from worshiping is the same thing that made me so miserable in the sixth grade: self-awareness. Some people have such a preoccupation with how they appear to others that they can't see God for who He is. And that's where worship has to start: seeing God.

True worshipers are never self aware. At least not primarily. You know this intuitively. You've seen those NFL playoff commercials where people are body-slamming each other, or grown men are jumping up and down hugging, because their team wins the game. That's the absence of self-awareness. Self-awareness fades when you place your mind's attention and your heart's affection on something beautiful. That's when true worship happens. That's when it doesn't matter if you sing on key, or if your posture is different from those around you.

Now, of course, self-awareness has a place in worship. But it's only after we see God for who He is that we can have a healthy self-awareness, a different kind of self-awareness. It's the kind of self-awareness that comes when you're watching a movie with your grandmother and a sex scene comes on. You become aware of something that you normally wouldn't be aware of because you're in the presence of someone better than you.

So maybe you're someone who doesn't really get anything out of a corporate worship time. It's possible that you aren't experiencing anything because you're looking no further than yourself. Lift your eyes, see who God is, and worship Him.


  1. Good stuff. So true. Love the pic.

  2. I'm loving reading your posts, Chris! Good stuff. Thanks for providing some food for thought and being vulnerable to share truth. Give your lovely wife a hug for me!!


  3. you are invited to follow my blog

  4. Josh had the same exact experience in 6th grade. It is quite a fall going from the darling of the fifth grade to a social flunkie. He even got beat up by some guys for not having Nikes! (His braided belt was always just so. ;)
    It was a learning experience for sure and as bad as it was, I am sure it will make him a better dad. I believe God will bring good out of our trials.