Why You Might Not Worship God (Even Though You Want To)

I woke up today and within ten minutes of mental alertness I knew it was going to be a bad day.

No. Scratch that. I knew it could be a bad day. 

I didn’t want to take my daughter to school. I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to make lunches or breakfast. I barely made coffee. 

I wasn’t sad. Just… eh. 

I prayed, skimmed some Isaiah.  I drank the coffee. And still I just didn’t want to leave the kitchen table. 

So, because sitting at the table all day didn’t seem like a feasible course of action, I started talking to myself, trying to get excited about the day’s responsibilities. I used my perky cruise director voice and walked through the schedule. I humored the cruise director part of me. 

Then, right then, in the middle of me listing off my to-do’s, something inside me grabbed the mic, and I heard, like it was over a loudspeaker, this question: ”If you could do anything today, what would you do?”

And in four seconds I was out of the chair and getting ready. Because I knew exactly what I wanted to do. 

I drove London to school and then headed home where I washed and blew dry Eve’s hair and dressed her in my favorite of her shirts. Next, we went to a kids consignment store where we bought one blue bow. Then, we drove fifteen minutes north to Southwestern University, got out of the car and explored for two hours in the perfect, blue-skyed, 70 degree outdoors.

Also, and essential to the day, I took pictures of Eve.

I took this picture:

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And this picture:

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And this one:

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This too:

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I took so many pictures. 

And the entire time I was in heaven. 

Here’s why (and when) I take pictures: I take pictures to count blessings when I most need to count them.

I look through the lens and it’s like God opens my eyes; I really do see differently. I pick up a camera and just the weight of it in my hands reminds me that I have things to take pictures of. I put it to my eye, and I am overwhelmed. I smile compulsively when I’m shooting. Sometimes I cry.

I think maybe it’s the way looking through a viewfinder focuses our attention, concentrating all of what is into one small rectangle so that we can’t see everything and so that we do (finally) see the thing right in front of us.

Taking pictures teaches me to see.

Today, I saw this little girl. And she was so beautiful.

Eyes as blue as the cove I swam in with my husband on our honeymoon in Mexico.

Lips dark pink and pouty—she gives the best, tenderest kisses.

Porcelain skin. 

Hair that never seems to do right, adorably rebellious.

And I took pictures, pictures of her running on strong legs and pictures of her laughing, lungs full of air, and I thought with every click of the camera, “God, You are so good.”

For years I’ve wanted to make annual family photobooks [I hate the idea of my pictures languishing on a hard drive somewhere]. This year I made one. Sixty pages. Probably 1,000 pictures. The book includes most of our friends, great meals, naps, dates, and all of the ordinary stuff I’m most thankful for. 

I couldn’t wait for it to come. When it did, when I finally saw it peaking out of my mailbox, I ripped open the cardboard, dropped every other thing I should have been doing, sat in the closest chair, and smile-cried my way through every single image—the whole time praying, “God, my Father, Giver of good gifts, praise and glory be to Your holy name!”

I’m crying now just thinking of it. Of Him…

When I take pictures, when I pour over a photo album, I cannot help but worship.

There’s this line in Matthew 28, about Jesus after the resurrection. Matthew says, “When they saw him, they worshiped him.”

And that’s the bottom line, right?

When we see God, we’ll worship Him.

Worship, throughout scripture, is a reaction to the glory and power of God—seen and experienced. When God parts a sea, women dance and the men build altars. When God fills the temple with his presence, His people sacrifice 22,000 cows. When God reigns in majesty on His throne in Heaven, the angels sing “Holy, holy, holy…”

When we “worship” on Sundays, we do things like read scripture together and take communion. We study the Word and sing songs. No one of these acts is inherently worship. They’re prompts—opportunities to gaze at God and respond accordingly. We can choose to worship. More accurately, we can choose whether or not to encounter our present, waiting God.

Because if we meet God, we will worship.

If worship is difficult for you—if your heart is hard, if you’re distracted, if you just don’t feel compelled to praise—I’d suggest you do what I did today, what I have to remind myself to do all the time. Not the picture-taking. The God-seeing.

Go outside. Stay inside and read. Cook with a vegetable God grew in the ground. Memorize scripture. Sing a hymn your grandma sang. 

For goodness’s sake, take communion and pray, give generously, love your neighbor.

Maybe ask yourself “If you could do anything today what would you do?”

Whatever you do, don’t do it blindly, overwhelmed by the scale of the landscape, too much bright to make out any one light. Don’t do it absently either.

No, focus your attention. Compose the moment. Squint if you need to. And look, really look for God. If you have eyes to see, you’ll see and you’ll pray with Nehemiah and the children of Israel and all God’s children:

"You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.”