There’s certainly something to be said for church fellowship. I know that as soon as I say the word “fellowship,” the image that comes to mind, at least in Christian circles, is that of food and conversation. It’s sort of the idea of a gym filled with tables, and a nice, big potluck dinner or buffet or something. But when I say fellowship, I mean hanging out in general – whether there’s food or not. But I was thinking a bit about this last night: most of my closest friends are Christians. And hey, that’s not a problem. But then I thought about how exactly non-Christians go about getting their circle of friends? I mean, I can’t say that I’m all that close to most of the people I know at my school. Most of the people I talk to there are the ones that I’ve met at Central. That’s not to say that I don’t talk to other people, but I just don’t consider them close friends. Really, when it comes down to a real practical level, aside from any spiritual aspect, church is all about making friends. God wants community among His children, and the more we learn to get along with each other, the closer we become. I think it’s great how Christians have such an excellent opportunity to make friends – and yet, it’s disappointing just how often we throw away that opportunity by deciding we don’t like them. But I am just thankful for the fact that I can get together with people who believe the same thing that I do, and not have to search long and hard for people who I trust.
That, in essence, was last night. I had some “fellowship” with my friends at church, and that was that. But let me back up a bit. Kim and Scott had been saying that for the Sunday night youth Life Group, we would be doing some acoustic worship, and then talking about the stuff that Scott had spoken on last week. That was fine with me, and when I found out that Jordan had to work during that time, I got excited, because that meant that I was up to bat for playing guitar. Honestly, I just love playing guitar so much more than bass, and I love playing worship songs on guitar just that much more. So, I started even during the morning service to think of some songs that I could do. Then, after the service, Kim mentioned that she thought it would be good to have the youth in the service instead. Pastor Jim was going to be talking about miracles, and having a time of prayer afterwards as well. Part of me was interested in that as well, but the majority of me wanted to play guitar.
Therein lies the difficulty I had yesterday afternoon. I decided in my head that Kim and Scott often change their minds, and since they might do so if other people in the youth group weren’t interested in the service, I should prepare some songs just in case. That seemed logical, so I spent the afternoon playing some songs and such. That was great. Worshipping God always is. But that’s when the difficulty arose. As I got myself excited for playing guitar, I realized that, well, that wasn’t really the point of worshipping God. In reality, on top of my natural love for music, I also had somewhere in me some sort of pride – some desire for someone to say something like, “Wow, that was really good.” I stopped playing guitar as I thought about that. Where did the love for music end and the pride begin, and how could I separate one from the other? I decided that the best course of action was to pray.
At this point, I was still being selfish about the whole thing. I prayed that God would do what He wanted, but then basically gave Him the suggestion that He should have Life Groups so that I could play guitar. I realized it was selfish, but I still asked Him anyways. You see, I’ve thought about this plenty. Prayer is a strange subject when you really think about it. I mean, God already knows what we want and need before we even ask Him, and He knows what we’re going to say before we say it. So why pray? But as I thought about it, I realized that prayer is not so much for God’s benefit as it is ours. Sure, God loves it when we talk to Him, but for the most part, prayer is there so that we can assure ourselves that He is listening. He is the open ear that we can talk to at all times, and when we’re confused, when we talk to Him, He opens our heart for an explanation. So, trying to sort through this conflict inside myself, I prayed. I believe that God is never offended when we ask selfish things of Him. God appreciates honesty, and even if we are honestly selfish, He wants us to be honestly selfish – so that He can work on the selfishness in us.
I prayed for just a short time, a few minutes perhaps. I explained to God that somewhere in me was a desire to play the guitar – and if that desire was from Him, I asked that He would fulfill the desire as He promises in His Word. If it was only one of my own selfish desires, I asked that He would help me somehow remove that from myself. The funny thing about desires is that they’re hard to control. Even if we try to control them, somehow we trick our own minds into fulfilling them while justifying our actions. Our only hope in removing them is with God’s help.
Over the past few weeks, God’s really been speaking to me about humility. For the longest time, I didn’t really even understand what He was trying to say. All I could catch was the word humility, and the rest seemed to be silence. The word “humble” or a variant of the word would pop up in songs, in Scripture; everywhere I turned, it seemed to follow me. But when I would pray, I would ask God, “Where am I not being humble? Where is it that I have pride in my life?” Then, just perhaps a week ago, He finally answered. I won’t share with you the details that time, but needless to say, it also applied in this circumstance as well. The problem is that God has given me the talent to play the guitar as well as a desire to play it to worship Him, and yet there is also a desire somewhere inside me to use it for my own gain – to get a pat on the back or a word of praise for my talent. Of course, it’s not my talent, but deep down, I guess that’s what I wanted to hear. I wanted to think that it was something I had accomplished, when even as I play, the hands that I use were formed by my Creator.
For the rest of the afternoon, I would spend time in prayer, wrestling with this, and then spend more time just worshipping God, playing guitar. I would ask God to do what He wanted that night, and yet I would then go on to think about songs that I could do. Deep down, I guess I knew that Kim wasn’t going to change her mind, and that I didn’t even have to bother with the whole thing, but I still persisted. I drove to the church for 6:00 PM, and carried along with me my pile of songs and a pick – just in case! I walked into the church, and there Marlene, Pastor Jim’s wife, and Scott greeted me, and asked Kyle and I if we wanted to play with her. She was on the piano, and she was grateful for the help. We agreed, and in the back of my mind, I thought how strange it was that God decided to sort of combine the two – I still got to play bass, but we were still going to be in the service. Sure, it wasn’t guitar, but I figured that was His way of trying to give the best of both worlds.
I can’t say that I learned too much about miracles last night. Pastor Jim spoke, and it was great. Afterwards, people came up to the front for prayer, and I stayed in my seat to do the same. In truth, I only really heard one thing Pastor Jim said all night, and that was these words: “It’s not about you.” My mind immediately flickered back to the first four words of Purpose-Driven Life, which hit me so strongly when first read. Then, just as quickly as the first connection was, the next connection came and applied those four words to my own life. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I want, and it’s not about getting praise for something I didn’t even do. It’s about God, and giving Him the praise that He deserves. So, as I sat in my seat, I asked God for forgiveness, and prayed that He would help me remove this selfish desire from my heart. In truth, I don’t think it’s removed yet, but I know that in time, it will be. I also resolved to do two things. First, I would never pick up a guitar at youth unless it was necessary for me to do so. I have played it before for service – once when Jordan’s thumb still hurt after dislocating it, and another time when he was working. But those times were out of necessity, and I resolved to continue to only play guitar out of necessity. I know that for now, my place is on bass, and if God chooses to put me on guitar, then He will do so in His time. The second thing I resolved was to never, ever bring up the songs that I’ve written. I did play a couple of them for Julie one night when she saw them in the pile of songs that I had, and she said they were good and that we should do them for service sometime. But to bring them up again without someone else doing so first would only be an opportunity for pride. And again, if God wants to make them known, that’s His choice, and He never chooses to do so, then they will remain something special for Him and only Him to hear.
It’s never easy talking about pride, since most proud people don’t like to admit that they have it. So anyways, with all that said, the rest of the night was good. We went to Wendy’s and William’s afterwards to get food, and then headed over to Kristen’s house. There we watched Chicken Little, and as I said before, “fellowshipped.” Chicken Little isn’t actually half bad for an animated movie. On the other hand, it’s also not a movie that I would rent over and over again to watch. But whatever. Afterwards, I went home and, well, played some worship songs. But it was different that time. I had begun to understand my place and the fact that God sets up and takes down leaders, not us. Since generally the guy with the guitar in a worship team is considered the “leader,” I considered the position a promotion from the bass player, who stands in the back, barely seen. But hey – if I try to set myself up in that position, it will only end badly. If God does it, in His own time and His own way, then things will turn out a lot better. But anyways, with all that said, I think I’m done for the day. I’m going to go play some guitar…