Try this out. Make a fist with one of your hands, palm-side up. Squeeze and squeeze for 10 seconds...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10. Now, open your fingers, and notice the sensation. Release. Freedom. Breath. As we enter any time of intentionally seeking the Lord, we have to first let stuff go.
Massage therapists, psychotherapists, and our best friends will be the first to tell us that we all go about life carrying a good amount of stress and anxiety..baggage. We can't blame this on the internet or cable TV - it's nothing new. It's nature. We want what we want (Genesis 3:6), hiding the shame we feel when our true self is exposed (Genesis 3:7-8), yet God still calls us into His presence (Genesis 3:9) and provides covering in our pain and vulnerability (Genesis 3:21). If we want to hold God's hand, we first have to drop the fruit.
Why is this so difficult for us? Why do we go through so much trouble to hide ourselves from our communities, our friends, our families, and our Maker? Because of shame and insecurity. But guess what. We're all in the same boat (Romans 3:23, Matthew 7:3), we're all forgiven in full (Romans 5:8), and we're all loved as we are (Romans 8:38-39). We can then be encouraged to drop the load because Christ cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and has made us free (Galatians 5:1, John 8:36). Are you starting to feel the release? The freedom? The breath?
Okay. For those on board so far, there's another hurdle to jump. In some respects, it can be easy drop the baggage before God, but not so much before people. Even our friends. Especially our churches. We can come at this from two angles, though the first will likely take care of the second. First, in a worship service, if you notice within yourself a mind busy with critical thoughts of others, stop it. Try to dial back your purview until it's just you and God. Second, if you notice within yourself a consideration of how others are viewing you, stop it. Again, try to dial back your purview until it's just you and God. Jesus tells us we can't worship multiple things at once, so we'll have to choose which is our master in church (Matthew 16:13).
The last hurdle, and this is an interesting one, is perhaps our fear of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we're hesitant to worship freely because we're uncomfortable with how the Holy Spirit might respond; what He might do within our hearts and around the room. For those at charismatic churches, this is no problem, but for the rest of us, oh momma this is tough. Smoke? Fire? Prophesying? Tongues? Conviction? (2 Chronicles 6-7, Acts 2, John 16:8) Yikes! No, thanks. But in fearing God's response, we're actually sacrificing something incredibly holy for our own insecurities. Not a fair trade if you ask me.
Worship leaders: My challenge for you is to model complete abandon on the stage. Show the world your bold, new freedom in how you worship God. Own it, and others can be led to do the same. Be encouraged that God has called you to leadership, and equipped you with less concern about how others see you, and more concern about getting the group somewhere special.
Everybody else: My challenge for you is both experiential and experimental. You have an opportunity to find out what helps you let go. Sometimes it's a matter of posture (bowing, kneeling, laying down), sometimes it's sensory (eyes and ears opened or closed, holding something), and sometimes it's physical (wearing different clothes, dropping some things outside of the sanctuary). Try some of these things and see what disarms you and frees your mind to worship God. Be encouraged that you will land before God if you seek Him with all your heart (Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 7:8, James 4:8).
My hope is that naming some of these inhibitions can help give us all courage to drop the baggage as we intentionally enter God's presence in worship.