Last week I participated in a miniature version of a spiritual direction session with a small group in my graduate program. One of my classmates was serving as the spiritual director, and I was participating as the directee.
It turned out to be an experience my friend Barb would call “whoa dang” — one of those times when God shows up and knocks your socks right off.
The session began with my sharing about the image of the wilderness I’d discovered the previous week. I had continued to think about that image over the course of several days and felt there was more I could learn from it. I wanted to take time in our session to explore the image a bit more.
My classmate’s response surprised me.
He said, “I’ve noticed that you ‘sit with images’ a lot … and that God speaks to you through those. God speaks to me in very similar ways. What kept coming up in me as I read your words is the idea of worship … specifically musical worship. I feel like this may be connected to the dying process in some way. How has your experience been with God in times of worship recently?”
What an unexpected question!
But the question was just far enough out in left field for me to have the sense that God was in it. So I leaned into it and then shared the following thoughts:
- Musical worship is a central part of my life with God. When I am sitting before God in prayer, I usually cannot help but sing some simple songs of praise out loud.
- Although I hadn’t consciously noticed it before, I’ve been cherishing the singing portion of corporate (church) worship services a lot this past month or so. It is during those times of the service that I feel most in communion with God.
- When I imagine myself traveling through the wilderness while singing songs of praise to God, tears prick my eyes.
- I sensed a connection here, too — though I couldn’t quite grasp what it was — to my recent reflections on Ezekiel 16 about dying and adoring God utterly.
Later that afternoon, I decided to go to the gym. It had been months since my last workout, and there were certainly other ways I could have made more productive use of my time, but I couldn’t shake the pull to head that way.
Right before I left the house, I grabbed my iPod shuffle off the desk. I remembered that I had last loaded a handful of my favorite songs from Phil Wickham’s Singalong album on the iPod, and I thought it would be appropriate, given the conversation about worship I’d just had with my classmate, to listen to that album while I exercised.
I’m so glad that I did.
When I got to the gym, I jumped on the elliptical trainer and stuck my earbuds in my ears. I found the beginning of the Singalong album and began pumping my legs and arms in rhythm with the music.
It turns out the first 5-6 songs I’d loaded were rather fast-paced, which means that pumping along in rhythm with the music gave me a rather rigorous workout for 30 minutes straight! But it was invigorating. I found my body releasing incredible endorphins as I surged along, and my arms and legs relished the release of all that energy.
I also found my mind bringing incredible focus to all the words in each song, and my heart followed right behind in a truly worshipful posture. I began to notice it was a beautiful wholistic experience: the totality of my body, mind, heart, and spirit experiencing a unity of worship in those moments.
What’s more — and this is the truly amazing part — is that I began to notice a recurring theme among each of the songs. There were a total of 8 songs I had loaded as my favorites from the CD, and every single one of them centered around the theme of love.
These songs called Jesus beautiful. They spoke of giving him my life forever. They talked of adoring him. Of being completely satisfied in him. Of rejoicing in the divine romance. Of a love that has no bounds.
When I discovered this recurring theme running through all the songs, the smile on my face as I trained with unflagging zeal on that machine must have given more than a few gym members pause. I could imagine them thinking, “What is up with that girl?”
But I could not concern myself with their puzzled glances. I could only notice my exhilaration and amazement at God’s intimate way of communicating with me. It was as though he was saying, “Yes. What you are learning of death is intimately connected to love … and in order to learn that love, bring me your worshipful heart.”
I drove away from the gym that day reflecting once again on the journey of Israel and my own journey with God. I thought again of the ways he has shown me his love in order that I would trust him and love him adoringly. I thought of our journey together and who God has become in my life, and then I blurted out loud in my car: “You made me fall in love with you!”
I can’t help it. I love him. He is just that beautiful and irresistible.
This short verse from Phil Wickham’s CD captures all that I’ve been telling God ever since that day:
You can download the full live Singalong album for yourself (it’s free!) by clicking here.