The Music Within Us

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We’ve all had encounters with music in one way or another. But what is music? Is it a certain set of notes that sound good together? What is the purpose of music? Even when it comes to worship, why is music so important? Why are people touched by a song? My journey with music has left me with a lot of questions and very few answers. 

I remember when I bought my first guitar. I was sixteen years old and had some cash in the bank, thinking, “playing guitar will make me cool”. My best friend had been playing for a year already and I had some catching up to do, but I was ready. Ready to delve into this music-business that people around me had been talking about. Ready to be surrounded by people telling me how great I am. I was ready to be recognized.

"I had finally made it; I was going to be the next big thing at our church."

What I didn’t realize was that learning guitar is not the easiest thing in the world, especially with no teacher. Determined to succeed I practised day after day; surely my time would come. Eventually, after many, many hours of pouring my life into my guitar I was ready. I had reached the point every Christian teenager hopes to reach: playing in the worship band. I had finally made it; I was going to be the next big thing at our church.

I remember the first time I played guitar in our church band. I didn’t realize it then, but that was all I was doing - ‘playing’ an instrument. Even then I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It wasn’t until several months later, on a 3 week outreach to Peru, that I would have my answer.

"How could I play worship if they didn’t understand the words of the song?"

When we were told that we would be doing worship there, the first thoughts through my brain were “they don’t speak English, they won’t understand the words”. What was I going to do? How could I play worship if they didn’t understand the words of the song? They won’t understand what I’m trying to say. Nevertheless, off I marched into an unknown land, thinking to myself the entire time about how bad it was going to be when we were called upon to lead worship.

Then it happened. It was time for me to lead a group of non-English speaking people to a place to worship God. I played the songs right, I didn’t make any mistakes musically, yet there was little worship. They stood there looking at me, not engaged with God in the slightest. “What the Heck?” As the message was preached, I kept asking myself, “Why did they even ask us to do this? Clearly I was doomed to fail from the start.” Wasn’t I? For the next few days we continued to play at different churches, but got the same result.

"I was tired of ‘playing’ worship."

Then it came. The answer I was searching for, in a little church of 30 people. We didn’t lead worship that night, however after the message, I was asked to play guitar during the ministry time. I don’t know if it was from a simple desire or out of deep frustration that I said to myself, “I want to really worship God, give Him my heart fully.” I was tired of ‘playing’ worship, I wanted to worship as if God himself had come down. From this place of desire I sang a simple song. I could feel it; something deep inside me was being expressed through this song, my heart was in the song. It became more than a song to me. When I looked up, I saw what I had longed to see all those days: people worshipping God, not a superficial, fake, glossed up worship, but hearts being poured out. Then I knew that my desire to worship was not just ‘mine’, but was something many people there had felt for a long time.

"Real music is a catalyst."

After that night I learned something important about music, not just worship music, but music in general. Real music is a catalyst; it takes those deep, inexpressible feelings and turns them into something that is tangible. What I had learned is that worship didn’t come from my instrument, it came from my heart. It wasn’t about the words coming from my mouth but the ones written on my heart.

I’ve taken what I’ve learned from that day and I do my best to apply it to everything in my life. From my internship with Catch the Fire Toronto to leading worship in the House of Prayer here, I try to find the reason and heart behind the things I do. There are still times when I find myself ‘playing’ or ‘working’ instead of worshipping, but God always brings me back to that simple desire, that simple longing that is on the heart of every person on this Earth.

Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t play an instrument, maybe you are. The heart of worship resides in all of us the same. Whether you play a guitar, sing, or do nothing musical, the question remains - are you ‘doing’ worship or is your heart connecting, expressing, and crying out to God?