A couple of days ago, I was alone in my car driving to a meeting and listening to a live worship album. This really powerful, anthemic song started playing and I started singing, swept up in the song. At one point in the song, the lead singer yells out, "Lift up a shout of praise!" and then THOUSANDS of voices began shouting and praising and crying out to God. It was one of those moments in worship when all the hairs on your head stand up, you get covered in goosebumps, and it's overwhelming to hear all of those people completely abandoning their sense of pride, their self-image, their awareness of self all because of the presence of God. They knew he was near and they couldn't help but shout praise.
Then something uncomfortable happened. I heard the voice of the Lord in a whisper, "Lift up a shout of praise." I immediately tried to dismiss it. I was singing out to the Lord. Why do I need to shout? I kept singing. Then I heard his voice again, "Lift up a shout of praise." This time, I started to argue with God. "Please don't ask me to do that. It's weird. Why do I need to yell in my car by myself? You know I'm an introvert. I don't do stuff like this. You know I love you. This doesn't prove that I love you." Once again, the Lord said, "Lift up a shout of praise."
It was at that moment, I realized something. The Lord wasn't commanding me, he was requesting. And if I didn't do it, it meant I was withholding something valuable from the Lord. It said something about me I didn't want to be true. It said I was more concerned about my image, even though I was alone in my car, than I was concerned about what Father wanted.
I took a deep breath and let out my loudest scream. It was painfully loud in the confines of my car, but I screamed until all the air left my lungs. Immediately, the joy of the Lord swept over me and I was laughing and crying. I looked over to the empty passenger seat and I knew God was sitting in that car with me. He was laughing and crying along with me. I didn't just obey the Lord, I blessed the Lord.
In Luke 7, there is this beautiful story of a woman who stepped into a room full of men (a big no-no in her culture) and knelt at the feet of Jesus. She cried at his feet, wiped away her tears on his feet with her long hair, and then poured the most valuable, costly thing she owned on his feet - a bottle of perfume worth a year's wages. She anointed the Lord. She recognized she was standing in the presence of Jesus, stopped caring what anyone else thought, let go of her sense of self, and gave the thing that cost her the most to the Lord.
I'm not saying this next thought is what this story means according to scripture, but I am saying that I think the Lord showed me some beautiful truth about my relationship with him through the account of this woman's interaction with Jesus.
Whether 2000 people are experiencing the overwhelming presence of God or we are alone in our car, God's presence is thick. We just need eyes to see it. We need a heart bent toward perceiving his nearness.
Recognizing the presence of God demands humility. We can't escape that part of being in his presence. His beauty and glory are earth-shattering. So many times when I've been in his presence, I can't help but pour out all of my pain and shame to the Father who has been constant. The Father who loves beyond measure when I have been so unfaithful. The Father who draws me close when I run away. The Father who holds me together when I am unraveling. Sometimes, we stop there, but if we listen closely, we hear Father speak truth over us. "Your pain does not define you. You don't need to carry that anymore. Your sin is wiped clean. I see all of your gold and none of your dirt. I dealt with that on the cross. Now, child, I want to give you eyes to see yourself the way I do. I want to give you freedom from shame. You aren't broken when you are with me."
That is the moment we take our long hair, the beauty he has put on us and in us, and allow the new reality of being a new creation in Christ Jesus wipe away our shame and pain. Jesus erased our sin on the cross for us, why can't we accept we are clean? Why can't we accept the healing Father is offering? Why can't we accept the lightness of his burden?
When we accept those gifts and His truth, we get overwhelmed. How is He this good to us? We kiss his feet. We only kiss those we hold most dear. Our lips are reserved for those we love more than anyone. We kiss the feet of Jesus.
We can offer up the thing we hold in the highest regard, our sense of self. Our pride, our "togetherness". We can stop bearing our image, and take on the image of God. God is love. He is a reckless, wild, crazy kind of love. God loves without regard to how foolish He may look to the world. After all, His ways seem foolish to men.
When we love God with a reckless, wild, crazy kind of love, a kind of love without regard to how foolish we may look to those around us or even to ourselves, we bless the Lord. It's beyond obedience. It's anointing Jesus. It's anointing Father. It's anointing Spirit.
Do you withhold your blessing from the Lord? Do you withhold your affections and devotion from Him because it would be embarrassing? It would make you look like a fool or a weirdo? I have done that. I still do that. But I am learning to bless the Lord. I will tell my soul to bless the Lord, even when it's weird. Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when it costs me my ego.
So friend, bless Him with a shout of praise... even if you look like a weirdo.