I have considered myself a Christian for the better part of two decades now. I've seen everything from liturgical to pentecostal worship, and heard around a thousand sermons. But only in the past few years have I begun to understand the gravity of worship, and allowing myself to experience the full spectrum of emotion in the presence of a God who knit me. The cancer had taken over his once strong body, leaving little but a skeleton and a hope that barely flickered. We found out just after Christmas, and the following night, I was physically unable to stand in the worship service I attended. I knelt in the floor, releasing any semblance of pride I attempted to carry in the door. Face buried in the pew, I wept. My heart heaved the deepest pain I had ever felt at the injustice of it all. How could a loving God make us face this?
I was furious and confused, and worship didn't come easily. Not for months. But the same breath that spoke my willingness to abandon everything I knew also pleaded for the touch of grace.
It was only his words, blogged on a site used to connect loved ones when a family member is terminally ill, that gently guided me back to the altar: I want all of you who love me to know that my heart is full. I am often angry or disconcerted with how life seems to unfold so unjustly, but I am filled with the love of God, in some way that I do not fully understand.
I slowly came to understand that regardless of whether or not God intervened to heal, He was still good. He fills the empty spaces of our souls.
In death, in life, I'm confident and covered by the power of Your great love.
My friend Jonathan knew it, too. I miss him dearly, and still find myself wishing that I knew him better when he was alive. I also don't know God as well as I would like to, but I'm sure that wherever God is, Jonathan is there, too, and his bones no longer ache with the weight of cancer.
Something in me changed when Jonathan got sick, and eventually left this earth. Perhaps it takes walking through a desert, experiencing the fire, to learn worship. Perhaps it takes losing something you hold dear in order to brush up against the sovereignty of God. I have no doubt that He grieved alongside Jonathan's loved ones, this God who watched His son hang bloody on a cross. I marvel that He knows the inner workings of our hearts and chooses to share our joy and our pain.
Pssst! Want a peek at my worship playlist on Spotify? As I wrote, I listened to Meredith Andrews, Hillsong, Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, Elevation Worship, and Bethel Worship.