As a worship leader, I often think about the people in the congregation and what they are bringing with them each Sunday as the music starts. What they are wrestling with during musical worship? How much of a struggle was it to even get where they are standing this morning? Is lifting up his hands an act of surrender? Sheer will? Is her singing punctuated with sobs because the brokenness is overwhelming?
There are as many stories as there are faces that fill the room:
A cherished son or daughter in the far country-- miles from faith, playing in the devil’s playground.
The pain of a fragmented marriage that is sucking the very life breath from the soul.
The disease that savagely and unapologetically plows through a body.
The grief from the death of a loved one that threatens to suffocate the last gasp of faith.
The prayers that seem to be hitting the ceiling and falling back down again.
The oppression or depression that follows relentlessly like a hound from hell.
The crushing weight of an insurmountable burden or unyielding doubt.
This goes on every week. Sunday after Sunday. Private pain coursing through the soul like a freight train with no brakes. If we could just hear the stories that remain bottled up inside broken hearts. If we could just see the salty tears that rim the eyes in the darkness of the room, threatening to spill over in an endless cascade of grief.
I know this is true because I’ve heard many of these stories… heard the confessions, held the hands as tears wracked the body…searching for the right words, desiring to pray the right prayers…to offer something of worth for the soothing of a soul.
I also know it from my own experience.
There have been times that it took everything in my backbone just to show up and worship and believe what I was singing... To cling desperately to Christ and my confession… To stand in my lament and proclaim everything that God is in spite of my circumstances. To declare with my lips the truth that “God is good” even when He hasn’t yet mended and healed and restored. At times, I’ve lifted my arms in worship and felt my fingers being pried open, straining to relinquish control of something I thought was mine to keep safe…And many times I’ve struggled to do this with the discomfort of a spotlight on, a mic in my face and three thousand people in front of me.
Brokenness is frowned upon, even at times in the Body of Christ. We are often uncomfortable with the grief that inevitably comes from living in this messed-up, sin-drunken world. The western world is especially uncomfortable with this. Many believe that we should be in a state of perpetual happy-clappy Christianity. Always an overcomer, always singing the victory chant.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of the woman who broke the alabaster bottle of perfume onto the feet of the Savior Jesus, anointing them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. That story is to me one of the most impactful as a woman and a worshiper. It moves me to tears every time I read it. Jesus allowed a woman—a known sinner—to touch him, worship him and cover him not just with costly perfume but with her sorrow and lament.
How she adored him as she poured out her soul-ache upon His feet.
She understood who He was.
She understood who she was.
And as a result, she recklessly yet purposefully broke the neck of the alabaster vessel and lavished it ALL upon the Savior. Not just a safe, practical amount but the whole jar. All of it. Every last drop for the one she loved and worshiped.
As she did, she was instantly judged by the others in the room. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Leave her alone! What she has done to me is beautiful!” Christ promised her offering of worship would always be remembered.
Like the woman, we can come in and pour out our heart, our anguish to God, and allow ourselves to be broken like the alabaster vessel, the fragrance of true worship spilling out-- so the essence can fill the room and the senses of those around us.
God desires truth in the inward parts. He wants all of us: our joyful singing, our victory chant and our grief and mournful lament. All to him are worship. All are sacred. All are beautiful when poured out at the feet of our Savior. Every tear will be remembered as we lavish the Savior with the sacrifice of costly worship in beauty and in pain.
In moments that life is good and we can worship easily, do we, like some of the men around the table before the woman, judge those around us for their struggle? Do we insist that everything be clean cut, nice and palatable? Do we allow others to weep and mourn without having an easy quip or cliché to offer about the joyful, overcoming life?
May we be extensions of Christ! If we are in a good place, let us listen in silence to the stories and cries of the hurting. It is the privilege we have as members of one body. Let us weep with those that weep. May we recognize the pain in the eyes of those around us. May we pray with the hurting and like Christ, recognize the sacred beauty in the gift that they lavish on the Savior in their lament.
For we are to God, the Aroma of Christ.
“Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” The Book of Matthew 26:13