Monday at Greenbelt, Trevor, James, James, Bill and I ate at Nuts Cafe and chatted with a nice Christian couple who joined us at our table. Not sure how the conversation got on the topic, but somehow we began to talk about Adult Bookstores, well, not so much about their contents of porn and sex toys, but about the irony of calling these places “bookstores” for “adults”. It all seems rather adolescent.
Similarly misnamed are items sold under the heading Marital Aids. Although there must be testimonies of married couples who have been aided by the use of whips, chains, porn videos and sex toys, I have a feeling that many (most?) consumers of marital aids are not looking to deepen their relationship with their spouse. (Of course I may be wrong about all this, and I am sure some of you will sort me out 🙂
Over the weekend I witnessed Matt Redman perform Greenbelt’s Main Stage. Technically Redman doesn’t perform; he leads worship. His sweet and upbeat songs encourage people to open up and draw near to God.
He possesses a warm, friendly voice–emotive, not afraid to show his intimacy towards God, his passionate desire to worship Jesus. I own two or three of his albums and through the years have enjoyed his voice, melodies and most of his lyrics. Seeing him listed as a Greenbelt presenter, I jumped at the chance to experience his worship leading.
I sat in a shaded spot as the music began. Redman called us to worship. Clap your hands! Shout to the Lord! Dance! He gave lots of instructions and pushed the audience to respond enthusiastically. Like many pop and rock singers do, at one point he called out to the crowd, How is everyone doing? He received a tepid response, so he repeated the question with emphasis. I said, HOW IS EVERYONE DOING? And on cue, the crowd went wild.
As the “worship” continued, a large group of audience members in the center, up towards the front lifted their hands, jumped up and down, and shouted along with the songs (much like I had done for years in the charismatic church services I attended).
But as the crowd cheered, I grew quiet. The more Redman sang and rallied for us to join in the worship, the more I withdrew. I suddenly felt like a stranger speaking a different language. Instead of warming, my insides felt still and cool and distant.
I questioned myself,
Has my heart grown cold to God? Is this because I am gay and I am bold enough I accept this fact? Have I lost my “first love”?
The answers came quickly and confidently. No, I still love to be in God’s presence. I still love to worship. But I no longer need to be ushered to the throne of God like in the past. I no longer need a cheerleader pointing me to Jesus. These past six years, as I sat in silent worship in Quaker meetings, in that stillness, I have found that “hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the Sun above.”
It is not that I think that Matt Redman-style worship is worthless or bad. But I have outgrown it. I don’t need it like I once did. Instead of a call to worship it sounded more like clanging cymbals to me right now. It serves as an outmoded prop to help me worship or aid, a spiritual aid. Today I don’t need all those bells and whistles and exhortations. I just need a quiet room, silence among Friends, and then I find I can usually enter into a place of openness and listening and surrender.
Here is a crude analogy for those of you who remember tests like the SAT.
Right now, for me, a porn film is to marriage as Matt Redman is to worship. It serves as a distraction, a pleasant but unnecessary stimulation that I have outgrown.