(hit play first if you want a soundtrack as you read, otherwise come back and hit it later on, I quote the lyrics later.)
And to anyone else who attends a Christian church regularly.
Or listens to worship music regularly.
Or regularly refrains from singing or from singing loudly or from singing badly because of whatever nonsense thing they've made up in their head.
One month ago today my Dad died. On February 22 he went into urgent care, on March 29 we were at UW getting the official diagnosis of Cholangiocarcinoma and on April 13 he was gone.
I will never get to hug my Dad again.
I will never hear his voice again.
I will never kiss his cheek again.
I will never get to laugh at how he never said goodbye when he hung up the phone.
I will never get to have him hang or fix something in my apartment.
or on my car.
I have a lot of nevers ahead of me.
And still I worship.
I noticed it the week after he died. That first Sunday we were in Iowa for the funeral arrangements, but I went to church the very next week I could make it. I also volunteer with college students as part of a christian ministry and they do worship every Thursday.
Random bits of every other song choke me up. Something about the darkness being as light. Something about God holding everything in his hands. Something about God knowing our days before we do. Something trips me up.
And I feel the pressure in my chest. And the burn in my throat. And the welling in my eyes.
And still I sing.
My body tries to hold back the tears and the crying, so my diaphragm and lungs sieze up and make it hard to breathe. So what I do manage to choke out is stilted and stuttery.
But still I sing.
I try to sound pretty when I can. But when it is all I can do to stay standing and not collapse from grief, I focus on not collapsing and on what my heart is saying and less on how pretty or unpretty I sound.
But, still I sing.
Because what else do I have?
Even if I stop worshiping God, that won't bring my Dad back.
Even if I never set foot in another church the rest of my life, that won't allow me to hear Dad's voice.
Even if I burn every Bible and Christian book or novel I've ever owned, that won't give me the opportunity to sit and watch a Nascar race with him.
Not to sound pessimistic or cranky about it,
but what other choice do I have?
I lost someone who was so much more dear to me than I even ever realized he was. And I prayed for healing. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed, specifically, that God would make my dad well on this side of the veil. Because I know that once God took him home he wouldn't be sick anymore, but I didn't want God to take him home. I wanted him to stay here and walk down a church aisle with me someday. Instead I walked him down a church aisle with my Mom and Sister.
That wasn't a decision I got to make.
So I praise. And I cry. But I praise. I sing off key and off kilter. I sing half words and partial sentences because that's all I can choke out. When I can't get any breath past my vocal cords I praise in my heart and mind because I know that He can hear that.
So I say to all you who will be attending church with me on Sunday. Whether you be in the same actual building, or in any building you choose. I don't care what your reason is. I don't care what your justification is. I don't care what excuse you think you have. I am asking you to praise in the Good so that you are built up to praise in the Bad. Because, trust me, Bad will come. Hopefully not as fast or hard or grief-filled as mine is, but it will come. You will lose someone you love. Someone will get chronic or terminally sick. Something will happen eventually in your life, and I want you to be able to say
As the thunder rolls,
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
'I am with you,'
and as your mercy falls
I'll raise my hands
and praise the God who gives
... and takes away."
He doesn't care what your voice sounds like to the woman in front of you.
He doesn't care if you are clapping on beat or not.
He doesn't care if you're sitting or standing or kneeling.
He only cares that you are looking to Him.
That you are seeking Him.
That you are recognizing Him.
That you desire to Praise Him, even if you can't quite do it yet.
That you desire to be closer to Him, even if all you want to do is beat your fists on Him.
That you are honest in where you're at and what's going on in your deepest heart.
Join me this week? In being honest? In Praising Him in truth and love, and not in melody or appearance. Will you Praise Him in this storm? with me? Because I can't do this alone. You can't either. Can we bear each other's burdens and Praise Him together this week?
But once again,
I say amen,
and it's still raining.
I will Praise you in This Storm
I will Lift My Hands
You are who You Are
No matter where I am
Every tear I cry,
you hold in your hand.
you've never left my side
though my heart is torn
I will Praise You in This Storm.