I read a C.S. Lewis essay recently that got me thinking about the nature of worship, and our times of praise in music. Titled “Dogma and the Universe,” most of the essay addresses the question: “How can any system of belief that claims to be absolute and unchanging stay relevant in the face of our ever expanding knowledge about the universe?” He argues that no amount of increase in knowledge about the world around us can ever make the fundamental truths of Christianity any less true. They are tools that explain the universe to us, not containers that we try to stuff new knowledge into. In the same way mathematics is absolute and unchanging, yet is used to illuminate ever more surprising and complex workings of nature, the truth of Christianity is fundamental to understanding the universe, and our place in it. No amount of new knowledge can change the truth.
He ends the essay with a paragraph that struck me. No matter how much we think we know, he concludes:
“When any man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off him. He is back where he always was, where every man always is. Do not let us deceive ourselves. No possible complexity which we can give to our picture of the universe can hide us from God: there is no copse, no forest, no jungle thick enough to provide us cover. We read in Revelation of Him that sat on the throne ‘from whose face the earth and heaven fled away’. It may happen to any of us at any moment. In the twinkling of an eye, in a time too small to be measured, and in any place, all that seems to divide us from God can flee away, vanishing leaving us naked before Him, like the first man, like the only man, as if nothing but He and I existed. And since that contact cannot be avoided for long, and since it means either bliss or horror, the business of life is to learn to like it. That is the first and great commandment.”
Something clicked for me in reading that. Even as a Christian, I think I still try to hide from God at times, or at least wish that I could. I have subconscious picture in my head of God the Father, looking quite stern, and I’m hiding behind Jesus’ robe, afraid to peek my head out. This is (obviously) not what Jesus accomplished at the cross. He is not offering to sneak us into heaven without the Father noticing. He came to restore the relationship with God that was broken, and the life of Christianity is in accepting that we no longer need to hide from God. Ever since Adam and Eve, we’ve been hiding in the bushes, and now it’s time to come out.
I think that a life of worship is one of accepting God’s love, our complete exposure to Him and, as Lewis put it, learning to like it. In our best times of praise and prayer, we throw ourselves open in front of God with complete trust in His promise that we don’t need to be ashamed, only loved.