I spent eight days in silence worrying, wondering, and worshiping.
The worrying came with me, like a pair of old socks tucked away in my backpack. Not good old socks, warm and cozy. More like stiff old socks that have lost their ability to comfort and yet kept their capacity to stink. Worrying made the good things invisible and the bad things unbearable. Worrying was anxious, terrified, and busy. Worry distracted from the fact that I had eight days, a private room and absolutely nothing to do. “Relax,” I told myself. But worry was having none of it.
Wondering was better than worrying. Wonder liked to take a look around while on long walks looking for nothing in particular. Wonder wasn’t always sure, but kept showing up anyway, because wonder was curious. And yet, wonder sometimes felt like worry. Enamored of my past, I wondered if things could’ve turned out differently. Concerned about my present, I wondered if I’m doing well enough. This is just to say that sometimes wonder is awe and sometimes it’s just an old thought that’s trying too hard.
Worshiping was the best. Worship left worry behind and turned wonder into love. Worship reminded me that I have gifts to offer, took them off of my hands, turned up the music and said, “I haven’t seen you in a while. You look great. Let’s dance.” Worship felt good and tasted even better. The food, the sky, even the storms. Worship made it all worthwhile. Worship never felt like loneliness. Worship left me light-hearted and smiling. Worship reminded me to rejoice about things worthy of my joy even as it let me cry about things worthy of my tears.
Worry was all me. Wonder was a turning toward. And in worship was the great truth of communion and love.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius begin with a paragraph known as the First Principle and Foundation. With the efficiency of a well-written vision statement it begins frankly, “We are made to praise, reverence, and serve God.”
Some days that sounds like crap. Like servitude. Like ‘Who the hell are you that I should praise, reverence, and serve you? Who elected you?’ Needless to say some days I’m totally lost. Some days my own righteous indignation is a bit much. Some days I don’t know my place in this world. Some days I worry too much and trust too little. Some days I forget to worship.
The First Principle puts me in my place in the best sense. It reminds me who I am and for what I’m made. It begs generosity. It suggests that before anything and everything I must simply trust that what is to come is a gift and I must give myself to every moment, every person, every choice that stands before me freely and deeply. For in all things, in all places and in all people, God is at work and we are right to worship.
The truth of this First Principle is known when we feel ourselves most ourselves, when there is nothing we’d rather do than praise, revere and serve. Worry is worthless. Wonder is nice. Worship is worthy of us.
We are made to worship. We must choose to worship. This choice is perhaps what most defines us as human persons. We can choose to praise, reverence, and serve. And we ought to. But real worship is work. And some days we’re too selfish for real work; some days we worry too much; some days we forget to worship; some days we worship the wrong things.
The world is full of problems and worry is one of the least helpful responses. Worry spins its wheels and wastes energy on fear. Worry never makes us generous but often suspicious or even cruel. Wonder is nice. Wonder helps us to pay attention to things. But worship is active – praise, reverence, and service. Worship changes things.
Just as tenderness turns love into action worship turns wonder into love. Worship is work. And the world needs our worship. Not merely because God wants for praise, reverence, and service but, more than anything, because the children of God are drowning, tearing each other apart, burying one another in shame and violence. When we don’t commit ourselves to the work of worship (praise, reverence, and service) or when we worship things unworthy of it (riches, honor, and pride) we turn away from love and toward destruction. We must learn to worship lest our wonder turn to fear and our worry turn to reality.
Perhaps nothing so marks the Christian worldview as an absence of worry, a confidence and freedom in the face of all things, even death, because of the promises of God. Because of our share in the faith, hope, and love of Christ we can embrace the leper, we can welcome the stranger, we can love the enemy. Moreover, we can do these difficult things joyfully because in doing them we are worshiping Christ and in worship we are free from worry.
This is my prayer. I would like us to stop worrying and start worshiping. To recognize the dignity of the Other, to put ourselves in right-relationship with them and to respond to their needs with everything we have. This is praise, reverence, and service. This is worship. This is worthy of us.
The featured image, by Flickr users Marina & Enrique, can be found here.