March 6, 2016
When it comes to church, I am not a hand-lifter. I’m just not. I remember being taught a few times in church as a kid that if there was music, and you loved Jesus, you raised your hands. It was a sign of surrender, and if you didn’t do it, it was because you were ashamed of him. (Which, looking back, was kind of a scandalous thing to preach since I went to a Methodist church and hand-lifting was akin to dancing in the aisles.)
Every time I have done it during praise and worship, though, it seems awkward and forced. My focus isn’t on God; my focus is on Haley. Do I look holy enough? Do I look like I’m lost in worship? Do my hands look weird? Are they high enough? Do I have sweat stains? Why do I bite my nails? CAN THEY TELL I’M A PHONY?? I’m like Ricky Bobby during an interview.
If I didn’t raise my hands, though, I felt ashamed for not being worshippy enough. I’d get frustrated with myself and never fully felt like I was able to worship God in church. Why can’t I just be a good Christian and get over myself?
BUT after a lot of soul searching and thinking about what I was taught and what my relationship with Jesus feels to be true, I’ve decided that Jesus really doesn’t give a crap if I raise my hands. He knows it feels unnatural to me, and why would he want me to be focused on anything other than him during worship? We weren’t all made to worship the same way. How boring would that be for God? His children make up a beautiful tapestry of worship in our acts of service, our kind words, our selflessness.
When it comes to worshiping with music, some of us raise our hands and sing, some of us play instruments, some of us sit in silent meditation on the lyrics and the melody. I personally cannot keep myself from doing small, awkward dance-like motions. It sounds funny because it is, and that is my worship. I’m usually tapping my foot or swaying or bouncing, and I’m sure it looks ridiculous, but I can’t NOT do it. It’s what I’m moved to do. It would feel like I’m not fully worshiping if I were standing still during the music at church.
So maybe that is what God wants in our worship: to glorify him with abandon the way he’s wired us to glorify him, not the way our little subculture tells us to glorify him. God becomes so much bigger and worthy of praise when we take him out of the tiny, comfortable, familiar mold we’ve made of him and realize that we were all made for the sole purpose of bringing him glory in all of our different, awkward, beautiful ways.
March 6, 2019 update: Still not a hand-lifter, but I have now graduated to a palms-up stance from time to time, which looks kinda like I’m shrugging. I’m not shrugging, person in the row behind me. Maybe my hands will slowly get higher the older I get. Stay tuned for my March 6, 2022 update.