I must have been around nine or ten years old when from the backseat of the car my eyes were captivated by the synchronized waves that rolled through a field of tall grass as the wind blew. It was magnificently beautiful to me and I soaked in as much of this display as I could before it disappeared, our car moving on to whatever destination was ahead. I kept my face turned to the window long after we had passed that field as my eyes had filled with tears that I could not explain. I dared not let anyone see, lest the question be posed “Why are you crying?” “I don’t know” was not an acceptable answer for my father, and if these words were to escape my lips I knew what he would say. “Well, dry it up!”
I experienced this intense, undefined emotion throughout my childhood and on into adulthood whenever I was exposed to what were to me spectacular visions of our world – a night black as coal except for the millions of stars glimmering above, the beams of light that would burst forth from behind a cloud, the quiet of a deer grazing in the stillness of an early morning fog. These images struck a chord so deep within me that I found it unsettling. I did not know what to do.
You see, for me, emotions were promptings to action. Happy = smile and/or laugh. Sad = pout (without any visible signs that you were doing so, if possible) and/or cry (if you dare). Angry = find someplace alone where you could blow off a little steam with a scream or a stomping fit and/or sneak in a punch on an unsuspecting sibling (again, only if you dared because you were reeeallllyyy mad). But this emotion that would flood me in those moments had no description and I was at a loss as to how to appropriately respond. What was this and what was I to do with it?? With no answer, I simply tried to do with it the same thing I did with all other emotions not listed above – I stuffed it down so that I neither fully experienced it nor understood it.
The foothills of the Ouachita Mountains where I moved as a young adult seemed only to fuel this fire within. While not a large mountain range like the Rockies, this topography overloaded my senses with its snow-capped peaks in the winter and brilliant foliage in the fall. Every road seemed to offer a winding roller coaster ride through scene after scene.
Atop the highest peak in this area was a state park with a cozy lodge. The drive to the lodge was an experience in itself with the numerous vistas upon which you could park the car and catch the amazing views that spanned for miles. The park had a hiking trail around the top of the mountain and along this trail was a lookout named Lovers Leap. This particular point did not appeal to me because of the legends of romantic tragedy normally associated with this toponym, but because it had the perfect layout of very large rocks forming a spacious, level place to sit. Perched on this ledge at over 2600 feet the view was breathtakingly beautiful as you could see the mountain range extend seemingly without end, look down upon the valley below, and watch the eagles fly effortlessly in the midst of it all. Oh, how I loved this place.
I sought refuge in this beauty often as, at that time, life below had become very messy. When I felt I was sinking in my troubles as if they were quicksand, I would run to the safety of this mountain and I would sit with God. It was there, once again overwhelmed by emotion, that I asked Him what it was. Very simply he answered “Your yearning to praise Me.”
The whole earth is full of His glory. Isaiah 6:3
He had been showing me Himself all my life.
Learning to praise Him in my quiet time was easy. Learning to praise Him in corporate worship was an evolving process as I learned how to freely express myself in concert with other believers. But praise at this level was different. It required nothing more from me than the acknowledgement that He is. There were no words sufficient to describe the depth at which my spirit connected with Him in that moment with the purest sense of worship I had ever known.
The scriptures are replete with expressions of praise to God and I wholeheartedly believe that we are to give voice to those scriptures often, for there is great power in praising our God with our lips. But when His Spirit takes you into the depths of worship prompted by whatever He chooses to use, go with it. Don’t suppress it because you don’t understand or don’t have a response. There is a place of praise and worship that He wants us to simply experience, because it’s not about us.