As I have been thinking about my recent trip to Europe with my sister, I am reminded that there are some really incredible experiences in this life. Some are the kind that make your stomach ache from laughing--when your face hurts from smiling so big for so long. Some are so inspiring you feel like your heart is going to burst. Some are so full of pain it seems like one more moment under the weight of it is one too many. And then there are things that mark you and change you from that point forward. This was that kind of trip.
I was invited to lead worship for a group of women, missionaries to eastern Europe (places like Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Slovenia, Latvia, Ukraine). Women who have left the relative comfort of America to give their hearts and lives to serve Jesus in some pretty dark places, all to reach people that desperately need to know Him. They live and serve immersed in the language of the country and have next to no opportunities to worship corporately in English, their “heart” language.
Being with these women was inspiring to me on so many levels. I think the most inspiring part was in the stark contrast between their hunger for the experiencing of worship together as sisters in Christ, and our North American complacency at times. In my world (and as is the case with most who live in America), you can find a place to worship corporately at any given hour of any given day. Homes, churches, Bible studies, colleges, youth groups, worship concerts, retreats -- the list is endless. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of corporate worship, available any time, anywhere. This is not so for these precious friends of mine in eastern Europe. They gather together once, maybe twice each year, with other missionaries serving Josiah Venture in various countries throughout the eastern block. And when they do gather, time is precious. They know the days and hours are limited, and they don't want to waste a moment of it.
On the first evening of our time together and as they entered the meeting room in the castle where we were staying, you could almost feel the anticipation in the air. Usually, when I lead worship, I expect that it will take time for hearts to engage and connect with the heart of God. I even plan for that. But here, as soon as I began to play and music filled the room, hands were in the air, faces were turned toward heaven, some knees were bowed, eyes were misting (or tears were streaming), voices were loud and beautiful and unashamed. Not a word or note was wasted–there was no sense of “token worship” as I sometimes feel in services I attend. And this was the second time I had experienced being in the presence of these beautiful women who love the Lord with all their hearts – three years before it was the same amazing experience for me. Hearts immediately and totally swept up in worship. Oh how this must bless the heart of God.
So I return home all the more determined to model this kind of whole-hearted worship in my own life, in the places where I have influence. I think of my friends in Europe quite often as I prepare for worship, quite often while I’m leading, and I pray that God will allow me that same urgency to connect with His heart with unashamed abandon. I want to be unwilling to accept anything less of myself when I accept His invitation to approach the Throne in worship.
I am anticipating returning next spring with my sister, and I am already preparing my heart for the rich experience of worship we will have together. Some experiences in life are really incredible and this is one that I am so thankful for.