Worshiping Honestly

Last night Gabriella and I sat at the kitchen table doing her creative writing homework.  She’s working her way through several kinds of poetry from different cultures and periods in history: haiku, limericks, etc, and now psalms.

After we read some different kinds of psalms – lamenting, praise, thanksgiving – it was her job to write one.  All she had to do last night was come up with a few potential first lines that would let a reader know they were about to read a psalm of praise.  So, like a lot of worship song writers, she the first thing she wrote was very much like what she’s heard before, something very bible-ish sounding: I will raise my hands and praise you Lord.

I let it pass.

But the other options she came up with were just as non-eight year-old. They sounded spiritual, technically “right”, but she had no idea what they meant.  So I intervened a little.

“Do you raise your hands when you sing to God at church?”

“Sometimes,” she said.

“Why do you do that?”

“I don’t know?” she said. 

“Well, what are you thinking or feeling when you decide to raise your hands?”

She sat silent for a minute.  “I don’t know,” she said.

“Take a guess,” I said. “Why do you think you raise your hands?”

Another long pause and then honesty: “Because all my friends are doing it.”

I praised her for being so honest.  I told her I’ve done that too. Then we talked about kings and how sometimes people worship kings by bowing down to them or raising their hands.  It’s a way of saying You’re stronger and more powerful than I am.  You’re smarter and better than I am. You’re in charge of me.  I’ll do what you want me to do. It shows respect and it shows very clearly who’s the boss.

We talked about how God is smarter, stronger and better than we are so it’s probably a good idea for us to let him be in charge of us. Things will work out better that way, we decided.  But, we also decided, it’s not a good idea to tell God he’s in charge of us if we really want to be in charge of us.  That’s lying, we figured.

“So, now that we know all that, do you want to write that you’ll raise your hands and praise God?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” she said.

And you know, honestly, sometimes I’m not either.