I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. (Psalm 57:9-11)
The Space Between
Before I became a pastor and church planter, I served for over a decade as worship director for our home church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was the mid-nineties, and the contemporary worship scene was still pretty new and exciting. One of the songs from that time that had a big impact on my life was “Let My Words be Few” by Matt Redman. If you have a few minutes, click the link and give it a listen again.
I think part of the reason the song affected me so deeply was the beauty and simplicity of the music, but the much bigger reason was the beauty and simplicity of the text:
“You are God in heaven, and here am I on earth, so I’ll let my words be few. Jesus, I am so in love with you.”
The text of Redman’s first verse is from Ecclesiastes 5:1-3, which cautions us to approach God “ears first,” by listening, before we speak and make fools of ourselves! Like Mark Twain supposedly said, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt!” Not only is the silent approach a good strategy for building our relationship with God (or with anyone else for that matter), it’s also quite freeing. All our words, aspirations and good intentions…even our actions…take a backseat to God’s glorious presence. Before we speak to Him, before we do anything for Him, we are invited to simply be with Him.
“So, I’ll stand in awe in You!”
Psalm 57 is an even older worship song, written by another young and exciting worship leader named David…more than 3,000 years ago. It’s good to remember that the psalms are worship songs, and that they too were all “contemporary” once upon a time! David’s song isn’t the scripture behind Matt Redman’s text (for that connection, you can check out “Be Exalted, O God” by Brent Chambers), but the message is consistent with the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 5. Trusting, believing, and following God doesn’t begin with us—as if we are somehow pleading and prodding God to action. It begins with God. Specifically, worship happens when we are struck by both the intimate nearness and the transcendent awesomeness of God at the same time! Worship navigates the uncharted space between the human and the divine. God reigns in heaven, but somehow…amazingly…He cares about us, here on earth.
“So I’ll stand in awe of You!”
Theologians and philosophers talk about “liminal space.” That word liminal literally means “at the threshold.” It’s the space between this and that—between events in time, or between physical spaces. It’s the corridor between the rooms and the elevator between the floors. It’s the journey toward the destination, the waiting between diagnosis and cure, the vast chasm between a perfect heaven and an imperfect earth. Psalm 57 and Ecclesiastes 5 invite us…worship invites us…to live and to remain in that liminality.
David’s song echoes out to us from that liminal space. Even though God is “exalted above the heavens,” and His glory is “over all the earth,” David reminds us that God’s love and faithfulness is big enough and deep enough to “reach” and fill the space between (vs. 10-11). It is David’s comfort “in the midst of lions,” and “among ravenous beasts” (vs. 4). It is his peace when he is helpless and “bowed down in distress” (vs 6). And it is also his steadfast song of public praise (vs. 7-9). David is aware of his profound need, but he is also quietly aware of God’s inestimable love and kindness.
“So I’ll stand in awe of You!”
God doesn’t require us to find our way to Him—through our good deeds or our own wisdom—He doesn’t even ask us to! He simply invites us to meet with Him where we are, in the space between. God lives in those corridors, in the waiting, in our fears and our celebrations. He fills the uncharted chasm between us. That’s how worship happens, and why it happens. It’s what we were created for. And God has made all of it possible by stepping into the cosmic liminality Himself.
Jesus didn’t wait for us to find our way out of this mess on earth, He came into the mess “to seek and save” those of us who were lost (Luke 19:10). That’s good news! No matter who we are…no matter where we are…God is here, and God is good! If you’re looking for a God-encounter today, stand still and be awed…let your words be few…and spend some time with Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); he is the source of Living Water (John 4:10); he’s all you need. Always stay thirsty for him!