the baby and the bathwater

November 22, 2007, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

wonder: to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel

Now you need to know something about me.

And it’s this.

I don’t do tears.

I get frustrated often, angry occasionally, ecstatic very occasionally, emotional now and then. But tears? No. Not me. No way Hosay.

OK I lied. There have been a few times. I cried when my dad died. I cried at my grandparents’ funerals. I cried when things got really bad at a church I was at once. And although I don’t remember, I probably cried a lot when I was a child. But as an adult, apart from these, and a very few other isolated incidents, tears just really aren’t my thing. I’m one of those characters who generally seems to go through life with a very level emotional temperature. I’m not emotionally dysfunctional. I don’t need tones of prayer ministry. I haven’t got some sort of dark secret from my childhood that needs uncovering, exposing and dealing with. I just don’t really do tears very often. Sorry.

So imagine my surprise recently, then, when I was watching a competitor on one of these TV talent shows when I felt the old salty water start to well up. It didn’t actually flow. It just sort of bubbled there just beneath the surface. But it caught me by surprise.

And the program?

X factor.

The artist?


It nearly made me cry.

It was weird.

And it wasn’t just the once. It happened a few times. All the way to the final. And then again when I watched the highlights of the series some months later.

Really weird.

Now you need to know something else about me. Before I took the humbling and financially suicidal step into full time worship pastoring, I worked as an actuary in the insurance industry. And for those of you who don’t know what an actuary is, it is basically someone who analyses to death anything that remotely whiffs of numbers, finance or statistics. It was my job to take what may have appeared to be a random sequence of events, and search for patterns, construct models round those patterns, and then predict the aforesaid sequence of apparently random events into the future. I just couldn’t sleep at night until I had understood and analysed, processed and sanitised. And so when I began to sense these tears well up whilst watching X factor I couldn’t just let it go. I had to know why.

Could it be the songs? Well no, because I had heard them all before by other artists such as Judy Garland and Whitney Houston and hadn’t remotely bottled up.

Could it be that the program itself was so beautifully put together? Well of course not. I have watched it before and since and managed to hold it together.

Could it be that because here was someone who had finally silenced even Simon Cowell? Well this is probably something to be thankful for, but no.

So what was it?

And then it struck me.


Something you don’t often see in people these days.


Something that, in this age of self centered-ness and lack of innocence we rarely come across.


Something that is totally missing in most of the talentless egos that appear on our screens most of the time.


This singer came over as someone who really couldn’t believe what she was getting involved in. When any of the judges complimented her on her singing, she seemed totally surprised. When ever she got selected for the next round, she seemed genuinely mystified. Even when she came first in what had to be the most one-sided final ever to exist in a talent show, she seemed to find it incredulous. The rest of the country, and many other counties around the world clearly recognised what an incredible talent she was. But Liona seemed to be almost mystified. She seemed to be truly in awe at what was happening to her. And when she sang, with such a breathtaking perfection, with such a gut-wrentching emotion, you could see it in her eyes.


And through all this I think God spoke to me.

I say ‘think’, because my spiritual ears are pretty dull most of the time. And also I’m feeling a little daft admitting that maybe God spoke to me through the X factor. But just for the moment, humour me, and let’s assume that this was God.

I think God began to speak to me about something that maybe I have lost a little in my worship. O.K. over the years I have probably got a bit better at what I do, I think I understand more what I do, and I have even maybe become more articulate expressing what I do and why. But when I plug my guitar in, and start strumming, maybe, just maybe, I have lost a little of the wonder of what I am getting involved with.

Wonder. The wonder of worship.

And this is the wonder: we actually get to do this. We actually get to worship God. We actually get to encounter Him in our songs, our music, our church. We actually get to do this thing called worship. And even more than this, this thing called worship: it was God’s idea. He designed us this way. It’s at His initiation that we worship. It’s because of His mercy we can worship. From the moment we were born, God has been singing over us. And throughout all of our lives He has been seeking us out. He has been singing over us. And as He has been singing over us, He has been inviting us to come and join in the song. To feast. To be satisfied as His children.

It is underserved. It is unmeritted. It is incredible.

It is wonder-ful.

You see, I could write the most widely sung worship songs ever. I could record the most played worship album ever (‘dream on’ I hear you cry), I could have the most amazing worship band at my disposal (well actually, they are pretty good), and lead worship at the largest of all conferences. But unless I carry a whole heap of wonder in my heart through it all, it becomes a purely intellectual exercise: dull, lifeless and self centered.

Whereas if my worship is full of wonder it becomes colourful, life-giving and life-changing.


Bring it on.


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