The Liminal Space of WORSHIP – Cindy Elliott

This world is full of fragile loves – love that abandons, love that fades, love that divorces, love that is self-seeking.
But the unquenchable worshipper is different. From a heart so amazed by G-d and His wonders burns a love that will not be extinguished. It survives any situation and lives through any circumstance.
It will not allow itself to be quenched, for that would heap insult on the love it lives to respond to. [1]

 

Kleyn*

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. [2]

The other night I was on our patio dancing under the banner of our Abba’s love when I heard the door of our neighbor’s home open and close. There I was twirling, arms raised toward the stars, smiling into the heavens. Although I could hear the music that stirred my spirit and moved my feet, my neighbor who couldn’t probably thought I’d gone quite mad.

There are many expressions of worship (prayer, dance, song, tears, study, work, play, quiet…), but the Hebrew word for worship – שָׁחה (Shin, Chet, Heyshachah) – means “to prostrate oneself.” Worship is an attitude of the heart that has the connotation of complete surrender to one who is superior. Dr. John Garr tells us:

The Greek word for worship (proskuneo) is even more graphic, implying a level of submission to G-d that is parallel with that of a dog licking its master’s hand. [3]

We are given a potent visual of porskuneo in John 12:3 when Mary anoints Yeshua’s feet with perfume and wipes His feet with her hair.

The Hebrew word שָׁחה – Shachah (Shin, Chet, Hey) has a telling pictograph:

shachah

שׁ Shin – to consume, to destroy
ח Chet – fence, wall, to separate 
ה Hey
– to reveal

Worship is the place where walls are destroyed and we find G-d revealing Himself to us face to face.

When we realize that worship is a life that is in complete surrender to G-d, we can then see that worship isn’t confined to a moment of time, but is rather a way of living. It’s something that is woven into every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take. True worship consists of focusing on G-d, declaring His truths, proclaiming His deeds, celebrating His goodness, and waiting on and responding to His presence. To put it simply, worship is when one’s heart and life are bowed down to our Creator in humility and adoration. Such a life is also a life of continual transformation. Liminal space in the realm of worship is filled with G-d’s transforming presence and is one of His great gifts to us.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory [4] of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

 However, as with other liminal spaces, this space of transformation is not always comfortable. There are times we may feel stretched to a breaking point, fragmented and forgotten. This is a time we can look to the Psalms to help us. The Psalms of laments are expressions of worship. They are honest cries from the depths of the human heart, yet they are cries that are filled with a confidence that G-d is a compassionate G-d who hears His peoples’ cries and is intimately concerned with their lives.

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my G-d;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13)

Know that the chapters of Psalms shatter all barriers, they ascend higher and still higher with no interference; they prostrate themselves in supplication before the Master of all worlds, and they effect and accomplish with kindness and compassion. [5]

There is a midrash that says David compiled the Psalms for every circumstance and not only compiled them for himself, but also for all generations. I have found this to be true in my own life. The Psalms have often voiced the words I felt churning inside but couldn’t speak. In addition, the Psalms have been a further tool of worship in my life by taking me out of the depths of my own heart and up into the heart of G-d.

And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet G-d, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. (b’tachtit hahar) (Exodus 19:17)

Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our G-d and with those who are not with us here today … (Deuteronomy 29:14-15)

The phrase b’tachtit hahar is generally translated as “at the foot of the mountain.” However, the Sages understood this phrase to literally mean “underneath the mountain.” There is a beautiful midrash that comes from this understanding. The midrash brings to mind a picture: G-d holding the mountain over the peoples’ heads as a magnificent chuppah (wedding canopy) for the wedding ceremony between Himself and His people. Based on Deuteronomy 29:14-15, the Sages teach that we were also there. Today, we live in a world that forgets G-d. However, the people whose heart of worship is focused on G-d, who proclaim His works and celebrate His goodness, remember.
In such remembering, the beauty of the past under G-d’s chuppah is simultaneously made a present reality and a future hope.

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It is important to note that worship is not an easy thing. It is a conscious decision – a definite choice – that must be made again and again. The cares of this world can overwhelm us at times. During such times, it is easy for us to become more focused on ourselves and our troubles than on our Beloved. It is at such times that we are faced with the choice to either focus on our troubles or to consciously decide to step back into the liminal space of worship where the beauty and goodness of G-d overwhelms our troubles. However, this doesn’t mean that by living in the liminal space of worship, we will have no troubles whatsoever.

It is true and beautiful that G-d is moved by our worship and will at times only move in the midst of our praise. [6] However, even when our circumstances remain the same – despite living in the liminal space of worship – we can be sure that our heart is being transformed. We will see the world and our circumstances in a holy reality, in the only reality. When we give G-d His proper place in the midst of our circumstances by living in the liminal space of worship, we protect ourselves from making our circumstances an idol in our lives, from taking the place that G-d rightfully deserves.

For the believer, worship and daily living are not two separate realms. We can live every moment in the presence of our Abba. However, I offer this warning: living a life of worship may mean that others will think you are quite crazy when they don’t hear the music to which you dance.

עזי וזמרת יה ויהי-לי לישועה
Ozi ve’zimrat Ya vayehi-li le’yeshua.

The Lord is my strength and my song; and He has become my salvation.
(Psalm 118:14)

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* IIse Kleyn, oil painting – YHVH Nissi – The Lord is My Banner

1. Matt Redman, The Unquenchable Worshipper: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship, pg.18
2. This quote has been credited to Friedrich Nietzsche
3. John D. Garr, Family Worship: Making Your Home a House of G-d, pg. 91
4. The revelation of G-d is called “the glory of G-d.” To “glorify G-d” means to accurately reveal G-d’s true person. For example, Moses said to G-d, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). He meant, “Show me who you really are. Reveal yourself to me.” When we receive an insight about G-d or see an accurate depiction of G-d’s person, we perceive a little bit of His glory. – from First Fruits of Zion
5. The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe
6. Without a doubt, there are times that in the midst of our praise, our Abba goes forth before us and does battle. Acts 16, 2 Chronicles 20, Psalm 50, Psalm 146, Psalm 149, etc.

3 thoughts on “The Liminal Space of WORSHIP – Cindy Elliott

  1. “But the unquenchable worshipper is different. From a heart so amazed by G-d and His wonders burns a love that will not be extinguished. It survives any situation and lives through any circumstance.
    It will not allow itself to be quenched, for that would heap insult on the love it lives to respond to.”

    Yes! It has been my experience in life that all things come back to worship. I have a great day? I worship. I have a bad day? I worship. The Lord gives? I worship. The Lord takes away? I worship. Through this, I have His strength – an unfailing strength – to interact and be in this world. It’s no mistake that Judah (“praise”) went first on the battle lines. In this battle called life, when we lead with praise, we move forward undefeated!

  2. That’s odd.. Word Press took all the “i’s” out of my post! Maybe that’s another point in and of itself. 🙂 Here it is again… hopefully with the “i’s”.

    “But the unquenchable worshipper is different. From a heart so amazed by G-d and His wonders burns a love that will not be extinguished. It survives any situation and lives through any circumstance.
    It will not allow itself to be quenched, for that would heap insult on the love it lives to respond to.”

    Yes! It has been my experience in life that all things come back to worship. I have a great day? I worship. I have a bad day? I worship. The Lord gives? I worship. The Lord takes away? I worship. Through this, I have His strength, an unfailing strength to interact and be in this world. It’s no mistake that Judah (“praise”) went first on the battle lines. In this battle called life, when we lead with praise, we move forward undefeated!

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