It started out innocently enough, as I hear most forbidden relationships do. I put my foot in the door by signing my kids up for a class the church was offering. What caused me to tread on shaky ground? Time with other women one morning each week. Time to worship and learn while my children were being lovingly cared for out of earshot. Peace and adult conversation = Holy bliss! Amen!
In my defense, I hadn't lived in the area long enough to know it was one of "those" churches. You know the ones. Those who frequented sometimes stepped out of their pews. Actually, they didn't even really have pews. Sometimes, individuals moved more than the socially acceptable shifting of weight while worshiping. They even prayed for impossible things - aloud, and actually thought God might answer.
You know, "those" churches.
Different. Forbidden to someone who grew up on the other end of the spectrum. Except it was never explicitly stated that a church like that was forbidden. No one sat me down for the denomination talk and explained why we didn't do the things they did. Somehow over the years, my nose gravitated toward up at styles that I was not accustomed to.
I didn't understand why anyone would feel the desire to worship or pray as some of those people did, until I stood among sincerity, freedom, and, completely foreign to me: unashamed adoration.
My love affair began slowly. At first I listened to the words others were singing so passionately, and thought how wonderful it would be if I actually believed every phrase like the song leaders seemed to. And not only believed, but lived like I believed. I felt a desire to raise my hands in praise. I felt the weight of glory and fell to my knees. An awareness grew slowly within. I could no longer contain the love that I was feeling inside without some form of expression.
Freedom of expression was a world I never knew I longed to explore. But I got glimpses of abandonment in praise in others and secretly wanted more for myself. Many times the thought crossed my mind, "What would my husband, family, fellow pew sitters think if they saw me now?" It was quickly chased away with truth whispers of, "I delight to see you delight in me," and "Come away with me, my love."
See, I was beginning to allow His love to penetrate the walls around my heart. And the response to receiving so much love is to give love in return.
At first, I practiced my new freedom in the safety of that odd church. Did it seem awkward at first? Yup. But I slowly let go of worrying about what those around me thought about how I was praising my savior. The more lost in love and worship I became, the less others opinions of me mattered. Worship without worries took on a new meaning. Then, a few times a month or once a week was not enough. I looked forward to worship like it was Christmas morning and I was going to unwrap the biggest gift. I was hooked.
Casually from the stage, someone commented about their home worship, even dared to call their living room a worship center. The concept was foreign to me. I could have these stolen kisses and forbidden freedom any time I wanted? Sure, I put on praise music sometimes while I cleaned or cooked. I even danced with my daughter once, when the resounding chorus forbid my feet to stand still. But could calling on my Savior solo stretch beyond knees bent in prayer?
I had to find out. Could this possibly be the source of the freedom and peace my heart longed for?
I decided to get up before dawn and children. It felt sneaky but if Jesus could do it, I could to. I prayed. I read Psalms. I turned on some music. And I gave the Spirit permission to take me where he wanted in praise. I do not want to tell you much about my time together. It's too personal, too sweet and just what I needed. But I have tasted glory and will not go back to normal, casual encounters being okay enough.
Do I still go to my acceptable church? Of course. It has lots of great qualities and is sincere in diving into the Word of God. Do I visit that other church occasionally? Yes and amen. I feel at home in both. God is in both churches and He is in me. Worship happens anywhere, when I turn my heart toward him in thanksgiving. I am so glad God broke through my comfort level tenderly.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
"Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." Psalm 146:1-2 NIV
A sweet hymn I am coming to appreciate more and more: In the Garden
God of glory, thank you for showing me what delights I was missing by judging others. I want to want to spend more and more time in your presence. Fill my heart with so much love that it cannot be contained. Amen.