I grew up in a musical environment. Not the traditional sense of a musical environment; mine and my sister’s early lives contained a lot of music, of all different genres and varieties – there always seemed to be music playing. I’ve always loved listening to music, and going to concerts, and I spend a lot of time doing it.
When I started coming to church, one of the big things that drew me back, particularly to Longton where I have been for the last three years, was the music. It was a side of church I didn’t know existed. I didn’t realise that you could be in church and be singing along not just to an organ but to an electric guitar and drums. It blew my mind!
At Longton all the musicians were so talented, I felt really lucky to be a part of that worship time every Sunday morning. I started downloading loads of the music we sang at church and listening to it in my own time, and it was then that I really started listening to the words, beyond the face value of what I was reading on the projector screen on the Sunday morning.
A lot of my walk with God since committing my life to Him has been a “do first, realise the importance later” kind of thing. I’ve been obedient, because I know it’s the right thing to do, but I only understand why I did that or am doing that a lot later down the line. It’s how I process and how I learn.
Collective worship was the same. I didn’t understand it. At all. But I knew it was what you were meant to do. On a Sunday morning, it was part of church; everybody stood together and sang these songs praising and worshipping God. So I joined in. Some people were waving their hands around. I did not join in.
It was only this year that I realised there was so much more to collective worship. Through various teaching this year I’ve realised that worship through music is a pure route to praising God, a time between just you and Him, where you can come as you are, and He will listen. However you’re feeling, you should praise Him, because He is giving each of us so much more than we could possibly deserve, the least we can give Him is a few minutes of unadulterated worship. Matthew 18:20 tells us “when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” So why wouldn’t we want to come together and praise our Father in Heaven on a big scale?
Once I’d had this revelation of why I am worshipping, it felt so much more natural. The veil was torn. I have full access to God, and I am going to use it to praise Him. I’m not just going through the motions on a Sunday morning any more, I am with my Father, giving Him the glory, going to Him for solace, surrendering to Him, revealing to Him that He is all I need and I wouldn’t trade that time in for anything. Those few minutes that I am united with His body – the church – to lift up His name. It’s exciting!
Growing up around music, and listening to as much as I do, I really enjoy listening to lyrics. When I first hear a worship song now, I really listen to the words. Sometimes, they just feel like songs, other times it feels like the song writer has gone inside my brain and written for me exactly what I needed to say to God but couldn’t find the words myself. Occasionally I hear a song that I don’t understand; a song with lyrics that really baffle me. One of these songs was Hillsong’s Glorious Ruins.
We’ve been singing Glorious Ruins at church for a while now, and I’ve had the CD in my car, and the album on my iPod, so I’ve heard it a lot. I’d just been singing away to it, and for a long time the lyrics didn’t really resonate with me at all, it was just a great song. One day it hit me how much I needed God to restore me, so the song took on a different meaning to me. One line in particular though still didn’t sit right with me. “My soul will find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” I didn’t get it. But I carried on singing it anyway! Because that’s what I do…
This week I had a moment of clarity. I was standing behind Tom (who is nearly a foot taller than me), and I was in his shadow, and it just clicked in my head. I had totally misunderstood the lyric. The way I was interpreting it was like you were standing in someone’s shadow because they were either bigger than you and you were feeling tiny in their presence, almost intimidated due to their stature and size or because they were more impressive, they were taking the spotlight and you were there on the stage with them, but just couldn’t be seen because you were in their shadow. Why would God do that? Why would God belittle His creation and hide them in His shadow? Why would God intimidate you and keep you in His shadow to keep you in check? He wouldn’t!
God is protecting us in His shadow. Psalm 91:1 says “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” We can rest in the shadow of the Almighty. It’s a protection thing! God made us, and He wants to keep us safe. It’s like how when you were a kid, you’d hide behind your mum or dad when someone or something scared you; when we need protection now, we can hide in the shadow of His wings. He will keep us safe. He’ll hide us from harm and from hurt.
This realisation gave the song so much more meaning, and actually revealed a whole new layer of God’s love to me.
I love how God just showers His love on us. How he reveals Himself to us in ways we didn’t think were possible. How his love literally has no end. It’s awesome!
So now I will walk through whatever, with my head held high, and I will look to the cross in all my failures, knowing that God’s glorious grace is enough to cover the iniquities. God brings me to life, not just because He made me but because every day I rely on Him, every day I ask for His help and guidance, and I know now that I can rest in the shadow of His wings, I am safe, secure and nothing can move me from here. Even when everything feels like it’s gone, destroyed, rubbish, or ruined, He will revive it from the ashes, and restore it in His name. All it takes is for me to surrender to Him, give Him the glory He deserves, worship Him in all I do, call on His name in times of need, find strength in His presence, and hope in His promise and He will keep revealing Himself to me, and working in my life for good.