Worship When the Feelings Aren’t There

I remember walking into class that day and seeing her across the room. Something about Veronica caught my eye. Jet black hair. Big eyes. Eyes that met mine left me no way out. She knew I had glanced at her and knew I knew she knew.

It was the start of the semester and the start of something else. At break we met and talked. Talks turned into walks. Walks turned into holding hands. It wasn’t long until I took the next natural step in this progression.

I bought her a ring. I had saved up my money and painstakingly picked out a ring at the store. And then, while examining it one last time before putting it into a box to present to her, I dropped it. It fell apart. The small jewels bounced around on the floor. Settings broke in two.

At first I was near tears but then I thought, “What should I expect from a 5 and Dime store?” I gathered up the fragments, made a mixed media art piece, and gave it to her at school the next day. She was underwhelmed. And so ended my first love in second grade.

It was a great feeling while it lasted. Maybe you can remember your first love. And maybe the feeling was good enough that you wanted it again. Sometimes we can fall in love with falling in love, can’t we?

It happened in the medieval ages. Something called “courtly love” or “romantic love” developed. Here’s what happened: Married men would basically have an emotional affair with either another married woman or a single woman. This “courtly love” would not be physical. It would remain at the emotional level. The essence of courtly love was to fall in love with falling in love.

The church today might be guilty of courtly love. In writing about this phenomenon, Scot McKnight has said, “Some folks love church, and what they mean by ‘loving church’ is that they love the experience they get when they go to church.”

  • They might like the experience and feelings they get from singing songs about adoration of God or the experience of loving Jesus.
  • They might like sermons that make them feel God’s power or tell stories that entertain or insights that seem brand new.
  • If the song isn’t in the right style or the sermon is more broccoli than dessert, then we might leave rating the time spent as a disappointment. Like the segment on American Bandstand where Dick Clark would have some teenagers “Rate a Record,” we rate what we call worship on the basis of its beat and how it made us feel.

But what if the worship of the church is not supposed to be rated on the flightiness of feelings? Instead, its design might be more about building the faithfulness of fidelity to Christ? More about a mature relationship than a courtly love.

The Apostle Paul would say so. He writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What happens on Sunday mornings when followers of Christ meet is worship, but it is only part of a larger framework of a life of worship.

We live a life of worship to the degree that our hearts and faces are turned toward God all the time in all of our life. The early church understood that. And so they sang. They sang when they gathered on the first day of the week but they sang at other times.

  • Paul and Silas sang in prison. Not sure what they were feeling but they worshiped.
  • Jesus and the disciples sang after the Passover meal. Jesus was on his way to the cross. I wonder what he “got” out of that time of worship?

Paul redirects our focus of worship on the idea that even the songs are to “teach and admonish.” Everything to Paul was to move our attention to Jesus. The shape of our worship is intended to shape us into the image of Christ.

When we set our eyes on Jesus we shape our lives like Jesus’.

The feelings are great when they are present. But even when they are not, keep looking at Jesus. You’ll find something better than the flightiness of courtly love.

Question: What would change about your worship experience if you “rated” it by how it taught and admonished you towards Jesus?


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