I'm not past the fear, but I push through.
I try to face my fears. I try to be courageous.
I'm scared to talk to strangers, at the risk of having to evangelize. I'm scared to talk to friends about the Lord, for fear of being a question I cannot answer. I'm scared to give money to the poor or to be generous, because I'm afraid of running out. I still doubt God's promise to provide.
I'm afraid of a lot of things. Big things, and little things. I am even too afraid to raise my hands in church. I'm petrified to sing too loudly. I could be moved, I could be impacted, I could be inwardly shouting my praises with abandon... but you'd never know it from the outside. Because I'm scared of what people might think. I'm scared they won't like my singing. I'm afraid they'll laugh if I worship the way I truly want to. It's all I can think about.
And I know I'm not the only one. There are plenty of people I see around me who I know are in love with God, but could never tell by how they act. Are we embarrassed of our faith? Are we ashamed of our hope? I sure hope not. After everything He has done, is doing, and will do for us, how could we possibly even imagine being embarrassed of our God?
Our God is greater, stronger, and higher than any other. And even though he has the most awesome power ever known, holding the universe in the palm of His hand, He still chooses to call us His friends. He still chooses to be here, among us! These wretched, guilty, dirty sinners are in the company of the King of all kings! Isn't that something to sing about?
But what's stopping me from worshipping in abandon? What's keeping me from speaking up about my faith? What's holding me back from these opportunities for ministry?
I think it's fear. And I think it's one of the most irrational, unfounded fears that I struggle with. It's the fear of standing out. The fear of giving it all to God. It's the fear of what people might think, what people might say. And it manifests itself in my adherence to society, my tendency to go along with the crowd, and my conformity to this world.
Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Do not conform to what pattern, exactly?
The world is notorious for complacency and indifference. Our Western Culture is especially bad for it. We laugh at emotion and scoff at sincerity. Those with tender hearts are quickly hurt, mocked, and hardened. Those who choose to be vulnerable and honest are ridiculed until they put their masks back on.
It's apathy. And I wonder if there's anything more detrimental to abundant worship than apathy.
Go to an African church service, and you will see pure, undignified, unabashed worship. Go to a Central American chapel and you will witness praise and song like you've never seen before. From the youngest to the oldest, there's nothing holding them back. They know they are dancing and singing before their God, and that's what gives them the confidence to sing loud. They don't care who hears their voices, they don't care who's judging their movements. They understand that nothing matters when it's just between you and God.
Go to a church service in North America, and you'll find the exact opposite. The song may be filled with passion, but the crowd is dead. The leaders may be encouraging people to sing and to focus on the splendour of God, but the crowd is uncomfortable. Hands in pockets, heads looking at phones, mouths mumbling the words of grace and salvation... all in the attempt to be normal. And we all just have to be normal, don't we? We need to fit in. It's weird to raise your hands to God in public. It's weird to dance and sing your heart cry to the One who made you.
Why is it so hard for us to deviate? One of my favourite songs from summer camp is called, "Undignified." I just love the message it brings, even though I still fail to follow it. It goes:
I will dance, I will sing
To be mad for my King
Nothing, Lord, is hindering
this passion in my soul!
And I'll become
even more undignified than this!
Some might say it's foolishness,
but I'll become even more undignified than this!
God is worth it. His holiness and perfection is worth our praise more than the approval of our peers.
If someone held a gun to our heads and told us to deny Jesus or they'd shoot, a lot of us like to say that we would hold fast to our faith. We wouldn't deny Him. We like to imagine that we are willing to give our lives for the One who gave His. We like to say we are not scared to die for the sake of Jesus. We like to say that we are ready to carry our crosses and follow Him, even to the end of our lives. And yet sometimes, I wonder if that's really true.
Although we claim to not be afraid of taking a bullet for our King who took those nails for us, we ARE afraid of whispers from people behind us. Ironic, much? Serving Jesus doesn't just mean going to extremes like martyrdom. We need to be abandoning our selfish, sinful desires daily, and in all circumstances. We need to be denying our greedy selves and sacrificing our old lives for the abundant life Christ has ready for us.
But we can't live that abundant life if we choose to hide from it! It's there, ready to be lived. A life where we can step out of our comfort zones and reach out to people at every turn. A life where we can be God's disciples, following His every command.
Proverbs 29:25 - Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
I want to shine. I want to be a light to everyone I meet and stand out. If we conform to the ways of this unloving, unjust, unholy world, how will we ever teach people the way of truth? We must stand out. We need to take the challenge and be different. We need to take the risk! We need to become undignified! Society is trying to teach us to do wrong. To ignore the poor and oppressed. To treat our eyes to obscene and lustful images. To endorse abortion. To live for the moment and make money our top priority. To indulge in whatever we wish, to seek pleasure at all costs.
Our culture is calling for us to reject abundant life.
We want Jesus's Name proclaimed from the highest hilltops- but we can't get there if we don't start climbing uphill. We are different. We've been chosen. And it's time to do our job! We're God's ambassadors. We need to be out there. We need to stop blending in. We need to stop compromising.
Unapologetic love for the unloved is awkward. Helping the outsiders is odd. Living with integrity isn't often "cool." But if God is pleased with our work, isn't that more than enough?
So stand out.
You could start by raising your hands.