baritone

I used to lead worship.

That is, I used to pick up a guitar and sing songs in front of people with the hope that these acts would, in supernatural way, aid in making a connection with some heavenly being.

I do not have any evidence that this effect was ever realized.

What I do have is plenty of instances where the less tolerant worshippers would fold their arms and refuse to let the silky strains of my every melodic utterance work the righteous miracles on their hearts that they so badly needed. And it’s quite damaging to ones ego and/or self respect. Could it possibly be that what I believed to be my tonality-touting, rich, baritone voice was more accurately described with words like nasally, infuriating, grating, or irksome.

“Thank you, Desmond, for those infuriating moments of connection with the Savior of the world.” I imagine them saying as they left the sanctuary better suited to live like Jesus.

Seeing men and women fold their arms rather than engage with worship did not infuriate or anger me. Instead, I remember thinking how sorry I felt for them missing an opportunity for connection. It would be dishonest of me to say that this very thing did not damage my own level of confidence to a certain degree. I cannot think of a time since when I eagerly subjected myself to the judgement of others by standing in front of them with nothing but my guitar and a voice.

It would also be misleading for me not to disclose that, in my admittedly long list of issues with what we’ve traditionally called “church” life, issues like these cynical and cold receptions rank fairly high.

And, yet sometimes I wonder in some ironic twist of fate and peer-pressure if these attitudes, conceptions, and notions aren’t the very things that cause me to huff and puff and rant about why I have no time for “church” as it’s understood to be. In my cosmic pew, I am crossing my arms or, better yet, surveying the exits for my chance for a bathroom break.

I should be very clear here. The word “church” is an automatic aversion to me. I’m playing this Sunday at a church to help out a friend but it will take every ounce of self-control not to huff and puff and heckle from the back row. It is not because I don’t believe that Jesus is who he said he was, its because I don’t believe that we’re who we say we are as Christians. I think Christians have little resemblance to Christ – and my default position is skepticism and cynicism.

I wonder if it’s these examples that I’ve lived or my resentment that has made me this way. I wonder why, if I believe that they were the ones missing out, why I’m the one that now rejects opportunities to lead worship gatherings.

Confidence is an interesting thing. At 30, I’m I feel like I’m only now becoming comfortable enough in my skin to speak with any kind of assertiveness or courage. Even then, these times seem to be at least as much the exception as the rule.

I hope my feelings towards church are not rooted in cynicism. I do not want to be the man with his arms folded and brow furrowed in disgust. He’s repulsive to me. He represents a complete antithesis from Christ – the ultimate in self-absorption and selfishness. He worships his creator the way that he best sees fit and everybody else is wrong.

Which, for someone with my convictions, is a possibility that we can sink into. We can easily become prideful and tout our tolerance and acceptance with the same stubbornness.

Even though I don’t see eye-to-eye with the church about the way business is done it’s important for me to struggle to see the good. I’ve dwelt on the bad for a long time – that’s no great accomplishment. I still want to be one that finds the good and celebrates it.

But it’s difficult.

It’s as difficult as getting back up, warming up the old baritone voice box, and bursting out with free-spirited song.

3 comments

  1. Eph 1:18 “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …”

    It’s not always easy to believe that God looks down those pews and considers himself rich. But that’s what he says. And he wants us to see it. I can be as blind to it as Elisha’s servant was to the army of God that surrounded them. Try asking that army to pray for you. When you see God move at their request, you’ll begin to see that he uses even those we might view as not very lovely — even people who are sure that Southern gospel and camp meeting hymns are the only kind of quality music there have ever been.

  2. I don’t think all churches are like this. Or else, there are some churches that have much fewer grumpy people in them. They are hide to find but are worth the look. It is such a breath of fresh air to find a congregation that is open to new things and loving of each other to facilitate worship that brings God to His children. It’s out there, I promise 🙂

  3. Jen,

    Thanks. I should be clear that I have actually found a community whose spirit I connect with. They’re about unconditional love. They’re not about religion.

    That said, I’m still very cynical. I feel as though we’ve commoditized ‘holiness’ or ‘Jesus’. I feel like we’ve made His love conditional as if anything we do can have an affect on how much He loves us.

    And of course, then there’s the bits about making it about us.

    I DO know that there are communities out there that are genuine representations of Christ – or trying to be. Thanks for the comments.

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