I cannot remember being more nervous. Well, ok, If I really tried, I could probably come up with moments in my life when I shook more… When I got down on a knee to propose to my wife… when I was about to meet Peter for this first time in New York… when I was about to hold Johanna, Leo, and Judah for the first time.
I guess you could say that outside of moments when my family would expand, I cannot remember being more nervous.
I arrived at the church parking lot. It was several football fields worth of empty space on a Tuesday. I got out of my van, recognized I was very nervous and talked myself down from trying to puff up just to keep from being afraid. I was afraid and that was ok.
There was virtually nothing on the line for me here. I had a solid alibi too. I was here because I have a project for school to do. I have to interview a worship leader and observe three different churches and their worship ministry’s practice times. This one would be different, though. This is the place we are calling church home for the time being. This is the place whose culture I don’t quite decipher. I don’t know anyone aside from church staff. I don’t know how to say, “hi.”
As I walked into the building, I saw people, and in my mind, they all knew each other. Everyone there knew everyone else and I was the only outsider. What I would realize later as I drove home was that there were about fifteen people who stuck out just like I did; sore thumbs trying to not stick out. I saw Jenn and she very excitedly introduced me to a half dozen wildly talented people. It was like walking around with a bunch of worship leaders who would do very well if God called them to fame and are not famous because God has not included that in their current path. They took time, which was generous because most of them, I would come to find out, had spent a lot of time preparing for this night and they had multiple irons in the fire. But they took time because, “hi” seems important around here.
I even got to say, “hi” back.
The last person I spoke with heard the microphone talking inside of the sanctuary; you know, that sound that worship leaders make when they are saying words that aren’t of any eternal importance, but trigger your brain to know this thing is going to get started. It’s like Charlie Brown… “Fwah, mwa, mwah, fwah, fwah, Jesus…” The guy I was talking with said something like, “hey, we’re gonna go worship now.”
Do you know what I thought? I legit heard him say that all of the people who belonged there, who weren’t there by mistake were going to go have a private worship service and would catch up with me when they were done. After all, I was only there because of my flimsy alibi. Did I really belong there? Well I’m stubborn so I went in even if I wasn’t invited. I knew for sure that there is no such thing as a person who deserves to worship more than another.
The worship leader began saying worship leader things. You know, say words to say we’re all here together, let’s sing and be together. But there she was saying it’s time for family, it’s just us here, and my outsider bone is sticking way out of my soul and I just sit down and hope to just be in the room if there is an opportunity to do good worship.
And then we sing.
And it was nice.
Then the worship leader started saying more worship leader things. She said, “there’s no one here by accident. We are all here on purpose.”
I looked up to see if I had a thought bubble floating over my head. I began to slowly lose my inhibition and more rapidly than not began to have it dawn on me, I was supposed to be there. I was not on the outside.
And then I felt God say, “hi.”
I have spent so much time asking God for His purpose, His plan, His path, His direction, like He’s some sort of senior business partner, that I have completely neglected the time with Abba. My Father in Heaven whose kindness knows no bounds, whose love is unequaled. I have sought after His direction, but not after His approval. I mean, of His approval of what it is that I actually am.
In one word I’m wrecked. I can’t sing a song I have sung a hundred times. Here I am lifting up the King of the universe in song and he has closed his arms around my heart to make me feel loved and brought into a family.
Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!
These people are my family. It matters nothing if I know none of their names. Most of them have name tags. I don’t. Oh well, I know my name. I can tell it to people when I step outside of myself and say, “hi.”
And here with my family, I was right, not a one of us has any more right than the other to worship this God. But not a single one of us is worthy to do so. And here we are! We are calling on the greatest one that has ever lived. His purity unmatched, and goodness the literal source of the name “God.”
Holy! Holy! Are You Lord God Almighty!
And here we take up the strains that have been passed down through the generations. In that moment I find myself keeping company with Moses and Elijah. With Isaiah and Ezekiel. With Peter and Paul. All of us came to the end of ourselves and were crashed against the perfection and holiness that is Yaweh.
Worthy is the Lamb! Worthy is the Lamb!
And in this moment, I have been invited to be with a people who are my people in the moment, and my people forever. In this moment I call on God, not because I snuck in, but because He called me in and walking in with me, watched me be afraid and comforted me. When I felt all alone, He whispered into my ears, “hi.” And when I turned my attention to Him, I was as overwhelmed as Isaiah in His vision of the throne room of God. Isaiah, who would be the greatest man of our age; Isaiah who would run any of our churches more pleasantly than we run them ourselves. A.W. Tozer says it best when describing the moment,
But here, Isaiah was an astonished man. He was struck with awe, his whole world suddenly dissolving into a vast, eternal brightness. He was pinned against that brightness- red and black, the colors of sin. 
There, exposed for all to see, and not the least of which is my God, I felt no shame because He invited me into the moment of vulnerability before Him because I belong to Him because of the blood of Jesus. And it turns out that is what everyone who made that evening happen had intended from the beginning. They wanted us to belong. Sometimes it just takes a God and His people, and a moment
To say “hi.”
1. Michael W. Smith, “Agnus Dei,” Sony/ATV Milene Music. CCLI# 626713
2. A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, compiled and edited by Gerald B. Smith, (Chicago, IL: Wingspread Publishers, 2012) 67