Monday, January 23, 2017

Undignified Worship

I will become even more undignified than this. (2 Sam 6:22)

Last Sunday, a few residents of the Matheny School visited our church. For my readers who are not local, The Matheny School is a private school for children (and adults) with a diverse range of medically complex developmental disabilities (taken from the Matheny School website). 

One young man sat in his wheelchair, smiling, clapping, and shouting praise in a language that only he and his Creator understood. But I'm sure God was pleased. 

I couldn't take my eyes off him, because he worshiped with abandon.

I was reminded of King David, when he brought the ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David (see 2 Samuel 6). 

From a window, King David's wife, Michal (daughter of Saul) watched him leap and dance with all his might before the Lord--in nothing but a linen ephod. Basically, in his underwear. 

If that were my husband, I'd certainly be embarrassed. But scripture says she despised him in her heart (v16). And when he got home that night, she lit into him for his unacceptable, vulgar, no-at-all-kingly behavior (I confess, I might have done the same).

His response?

I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this (v21-22).

I watched this young man worship with that same abandon and said, Lord, I want to become undignified.

Or, as I just read in Timothy Keller's The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, I want to get to the place where I can say, I don't care what you think. I don't even care what I think. I only care about what the Lord thinks (based on 1 Cor 4:3-4).

Then Communion time came. A time of quiet, serious reflection and prayer. Unwelcome sounds might disturb others. Certainly, it's frowned upon, right?

Maybe for some. But not for this young man, He kept clapping, moving his head back and forth, and smiling. He wasn't as vocal as he was during worship; perhaps the music fueled his passion. 

His caregiver politely attempted to silence the clapping by placing his hands in between the young man's, but that frustrated him, and he pushed his caregiver's arms away, as if to say, "Let me celebrate before the Lord!"

As we grow, we learn to suppress our emotions, thoughts, and desires so we can assimilate nicely into society.

But those we consider undignified speak what they think. Like children who haven't learned to filter their thoughts. 

The other day a little girl in front of me in a checkout line was observing another little girl, then turned to her father and said, "Daddy, that girl has a pony tail, like me."

She spoke what she thought. 

No wonder Jesus told his disciples, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14).

We are taught to silence ourselves. So we come to God in the same manner. Politely. Dignified. Hindered.

We learn to behave ourselves. Especially in public. Definitely in church.

But I don't want to be dignified or polite in my worship. I want to be unhindered, like a child. Like our visitor.

What will it take for me to get beyond What will people think? What will it take for me, like Paul, to say, 

I don't care what you think. I don't even care what I think. I only care what the Lord thinks.

If I listen to What Will People Think (Dennis Jernigan), it would take total surrender. 

Total surrender. To all that you are.
Total surrender. Of all I am to you.

I confess, I'm not there. Not totally. I'd like to say I'm all in. I want to be. But I'd be lying. Sadly, I still care. Because it's hard to take the risk of looking foolish among your peers. 

So I pray these words from Dennis' song:

Well, I no longer care.
Let the whole world see that I love you.
Let them see in me what love can do
Take my life and show them love worth dying for.

And I pray the Holy Spirit moves upon my heart, loosening the hinges that hold me all together. 

So I can dance like David danced. 
Think like Paul thought. 
Sing like Dennis sang.


Blessings Along the Path,

PS--Interestingly, I just came across a book by Lisa Harper called Untamed: How the wild side of Jesus frees us to live and love with abandon. Needless to say, I bought it, and am soaking up every word!. 

sharing this post with some of these lovelies  


  1. Me too, Mary. So much, me too. I like the title of that book -- self forgetfulness. Lovely post, thank you for sharing. ((hug))

  2. I have read that book by Keller, and I so want to be there, too. What a wonderful example of praise by that young man in the wheelchair! I'm your neighbor at #ThoughtProvokingThursday. Blessings to you!

    1. His books are thought-provoking. Thanks for stopping by, Gayl.

  3. Many good thoughts here!
    Oh, to reach the point where only what God thinks of us matters to us!
    I'm happy to be in a church where there is quite a bit of freedom (to a point) to worship - from those who stand still and sing quietly to those who sway and clap or raise their hands. If I had to be still when I sang, I would find it impossible and frustrating, certainly not conducive to actually worshiping. I'm usually not even aware of how much I am moving.

    1. I think I may have misrepresented my church in this post. We have a lot of freedom, and I clap and raise my hands. But sometimes, I just want to run forward and throw myself on the altar, or dance, and we're just not quite there. I've been in churches where that freedom is available, but there was a lot of emotion that played into it too, and it can get out of balance. BUT...when we're in heaven, none of that will matter! Thanks, Ruth, for your thoughts.

  4. I love this, Mary! We had dear friends at our church whose daughter had many challenges. She inspired worship in our little congregation. Her joy was so pure. I have always said she taught me more about worship than anyone else ever has. Great post, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Deb. We do tend to complicate things for ourselves, don't we?