Weary of me all the time

I used to love contemporary praise music.  It often helped me express emotions and longings that lay hidden beneath my confident and smiling exterior.  The lyrics were honest, human, heartfelt and intimate; characteristics I sometimes felt were lacking in the older songs and hymns.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don’t see contemporary praise songs that way anymore— lately they strike me as dangerously narcissistic.

Phrases such as “You are my desire,” “For all you’ve done in my life, I just wanna thank You Lord,” “I’m desperate for you,” “I long to feel Your Presence, for you are my joy” and “won’t you fill me up”— they all seem to speak about me, what I want, what I feel, what God can do for ME.  Frankly, I’m tired of me.

 Perhaps I’m just growing up and growing out of my adolescence (it’s about time, seeing as how I’m turning 33 this year), but I don’t think God is here for my joy and happiness.  I don’t think He’s here primarily to work miracles in my life.  I don’t think God is primarily MY personal savior, either.  He is so much more… ever so much more.  God is God, God of the whole world, all the nations, working in history to bring His Kingdom, redeeming all of humanity and all of creation, moving among His people (not just individuals, but His gathered people!).  Why can’t we sing about these things more often?  Why is it always about ME and MY life?

 I should probably pause for a moment here and admit that this a very recent change in my point of view. It was just two years ago that I was handed an article written by Brian McLaren, who expressed some of these same concerns about contemporary praise songs…. and I was offended by some of his sweeping judgments.  At the time, I was a regular worship leader in a contemporary worship service and was pouring my whole self into pulling music and scripture together to create meaningful and faithful worship.  I took his opinions as a personal attack, which was unnecessary.  And I do not mean to attack anyone in this little blog post.  I am just wondering about all the “me” centered language we use in worship, and I’m wondering what would happen if we shifted the focus to “us” as the Body of Christ and to “us” as the worldwide people of God.  What if we took our eyes off of ourselves for a few Sundays?  Maybe my problems and pain and struggles would preoccupy me less if I kept my eyes on the bigger picture and praised the God of universe, not just the God of my life.  In certain seasons of life, during times of great personal sorrow and loss, there is a time and place for introspection, but this should be the exception and not the rule.  We are part of something larger and more grand than our rather insignificant lives.

Two years ago, I would have said, “Now wait a minute, are you saying it’s bad for me to praise God for what He’s done for me?  Why can’t I burst out in song when He has made me glad?  Why can’t I sing about all the ways He has been good to me, because He is a good God and He has done awesome things for me!”  Of course I’m not saying this is bad or wrong.  Of course we should sing PERSONALLY about all the ways God has shown up in our lives.  I just think, perhaps, we have gone overboard.  I think we are in danger of becoming self-absorbed worshippers instead of God-absorbed and Kingdom-absorbed worshippers.

To be sure, I still long for intimacy with God.  I’m a feeler to my very core, and I want to sing intimate songs to my Savior and for my Savior.  He is certainly at work in my life and in my spirit.  I want to testify to that; I want to cry out for more of that.  The psalms are filled with songs such as these.  But feeding my narcissistic tendencies, my self-absorbed and self-centered sinful nature is not healthy or godly.  I’ve come to believe that there is something dangerous (perhaps even evil) about repeating and repeating and repeating the idea, week after week, that God is here for ME.  Doesn’t that almost place me above God or over Him in some way?  Doesn’t it subtly communicate the idea that God is mine, that I possess Him in some form, that He exists for my comfort and happiness?  Wow, that’s insidious!  I belong to God, not the other way around!

 Next week, I hope we can sing as a gathered community of faith, the WE songs and KINGDOM songs, the GOD songs.  I’m weary of myself.  I belong to something bigger and Someone far more glorious than little old me.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike
    Mar 09, 2008 @ 16:01:33

    I like this. It speaks to the fact that our society’s infamous “me generation” is writing these “praise songs” today. And the way in which slapping the label “Christian” on something can justify its innate selfishness. You think in interesting ways, friend.

    Reply

  2. Aunt Pam
    Mar 12, 2008 @ 09:54:10

    I agree that much of contemporary music does tend to speak of the personal relationship with God and less about the broader church and work of the kingdom. However, let’s not forget that some of our most beloved hymns do the same thing –“How Great Thou Art”, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, Amazing Grace”. Just as there are other hymns that speak more of God’s character and are less narcissistic, there are some really great contemporary songs. That’s why I really appreciate blended worship. I think we cheat ourselves when we can not find value in a wide variety. I think all styles of music could work harder at addressing the broader church and God’s work in the world.

    Reply

  3. Jamie
    Mar 24, 2008 @ 16:18:34

    I think you would enjoy one of the Gnostic Texts, the Gospel of St Thomas:

    http://www.westarinstitute.org/Polebridge/Title/Complete/Thomas/thomas.html

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

    Reply

  4. Loretta
    Nov 04, 2009 @ 09:26:26

    I have also had the same thoughts. I agree that these songs can be useful, but in a more personal time with God sort of way.
    In corporate worship, in the church service setting, it’s the best time to come together as a church body.

    Thinking this way- have you ever been in a large crowd (say, like a live concert, or at a large sporting event) and one person yells something out? The people on the stage or in the field aren’t going to hear them, right? But now have everyone say something together or cheer all at once, and then you’ve got something!

    It doesn’t mean “God can’t hear us.” No, certainly not. But we are together as a body at services. We have a chance to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Let’s do it as one in the body of Christ.

    Reply

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