I had a most interesting experience yesterday driving to church at around 7:30am. My commute is about 20 minutes, which is just enough time to center myself and prepare my heart and thoughts for stepping into shoes I’m not worthy to fill–being a pastor and worship leader. 3/4 into the drive, a cop pulls up behind me and signals me over. As most people do as they’re being pulled over when they don’t immediately know why, I started to replay the last 5 minutes of driving, but for the life of me I could not figure out why I was being summoned to the roadside spectacle of flashing lights (come to find out later, some of our church family were driving by watching their pastor apprehended by the law). Well, I had expired tags, which I will go to resolve, just after I write this post.
Needless to say, I was upset. I was pounding my fist on the steering wheel, upset at myself for having been negligent with expired tags, upset at God for sovereignly ordaining an encounter which so wonderfully UNprepared my heart for worship. I parked the car at church, muttering at God. I muttered at God from the car to the door. I muttered at God from the door to my office. I plastered on a smile and said “hey!” in a fake, enthusiastic voice to someone I saw in the hall, and then I went into my office to “prepare for worship.” I had set in my heart that my worship preparation this week would consist of telling God how upset I was and how I wouldn’t really be engaged today, thank you very much. I picked up the worship bulletin and was reminded that I needed to spend a few minutes rehearsing the chant that would open our service…it was a setting of Psalm 95. The chant’s refrain was as follows:
Harden not your hearts, as your forbears did in the wilderness.
After about the third time through that refrain, it was obvious that God was talking to me. I’m sure you understand the message I was receiving. That transition state between being angry with God and being humbled by God is an awkward one, but that’s right where I was when I said out loud in the empty choir room, with a nervous and bitter laugh, “God, are You preaching at me?” I didn’t need an answer.
Yesterday, I re-learned a lesson that I am perpetually teaching to my brothers and sisters week-in and week-out: God is worthy of praise, irrespective of our circumstances. His infinite worth demands our best efforts, our most enthusiastic worship, our loftiest thoughts. The simple lesson of “your feelings don’t matter, Zac…I have a summons on your life to gather with my people and worship me” was spoken by God once again, loud and clear.
There is a divine grace in being a pastor and a worship leader. Others can choose to evade God on days like that, but for us, it’s our job to be there. I count that a huge privilege. It’s almost a spiritual discipline. Running from God as a pastor or a worship leader really is futile, because you’re going to have to reckon with Him at least once a week when you stand before His presence in the midst of His people. I’ve learned this lesson before. It was good to learn it again.
Well, off to the DMV.