On a happy to sad person spectrum, I am definitely on the joyful side of the human beans. But I am still a human bean, and I experience sadness, anger and other ‘negative’ emotions too.
I used to cope with these ‘bad’ emotions like I would treat anything that was ‘bad’ for me – avoidance (how 9 of me #enneagram). I would pretend like I wasn’t sad, or angry, or depressed, or anxious, or spiraling, because I told myself: if I don’t think it, then I won’t be it.
But not thinking about who you are doesn’t negate the truth that you are who you are.
For example: when I’m assigned a role in acting classes or a theatre piece, I can act as a character, but I am still me and not the character I am pretending to be. In real life, I can act as ‘happy Grace’ but the moment the crowd dissipates and my mask is taken off, I am back to just being sad.
So after a whole day – sometimes days or weeks – of ‘not being sad’ in front of people, I would find myself alone at some point feeling worse than I did when the sadness first hit. The sadness was once a snowball, and it somehow evolved into an avalanche.
And that’s why I have my issues with the self-care movement and wellness methods. The message is: mind over matter.
To an extent, life is always a mind over matter situation. When I served in HillsongNYC, one of the fave sayings was replacing ‘I have to serve’ to ‘I get to serve!’. That small linguistic shift created a large mental shift when it came to fulfilling my leadership responsibilities.
But what happens when the mind isn’t enough to get over the matter?
There are definitely days, events and long-term circumstances where mantras are trite, self-care books are repetitive and the mind is exhausted.
One of the solutions is: gratefulness. Be grateful for what you have.
Gratefulness reminds you that you are not alone, you have skills and gifts in your hand, you are alive and that is worthy of celebration.
But here’s where gratefulness falls short.
Thankfulness is a mind over matter solution.
Practicing gratefulness requires discipline and a lot of self-reminding. Even as I write this past sentence – ‘practicing gratefulness’ sounds so mechanical, forced and unnatural, because it is!
When I started a prayer journal, I had more requests than gratefulness. And it took a few months before realising the problem with that mindset, and swapped over to have more items of thanks than items to ask for. And even then, honestly, some days feel like I struggle to even think of 10 things to thank God for who He is and what He’s done in my day.
There are days where being grateful for my three meals and God’s provision is not enough to lift my spirits. There are days where I feel cursed by my blessings. There are days where the matter weighs down my mind, and I find myself limited by my own imagination.
After all, our minds are just as limited as we are.
While I still would encourage you to continue being grateful towards people in your life and for all that you have, I’m thinking bigger.
Gratefulness focuses on the small things and a big God, but WORSHIP reminds you that there is a bigger God and brings you closer to Him.
I was helping out with Kids Camp at Mosaic Church over the summer. Near the end of one of the days, after a group game and as soon worship began, a kid ran out to the corner. I went up to him and asked what’s up.
The kid whispered that he missed his dad. I said but it’s 4:30pm and he only had less than an hour before he saw his dad. The kid became sadder and said that his dad is rarely on time because of work. My heart broke because I know how long an hour feels like when you’re a kid, and I know what it feels like to miss your parents.
I whispered to the kid: You don’t have to worship right now, but do you know what I do when I miss my parents? I sing worship songs. It gets my mind off my worries onto someone bigger.
The kid looked at me, to see if I was lying. And once he figured out I was 100% sincere, he stood up and joined his friends in the worship session.
Worship brings the issues we face from mind over matter, into heart over matter.
Most of the time, we use our powers of reasoning and thinking to overcome a situation. Sometimes it’s sheer willpower, and sometimes it’s through mindful gratefulness. But just as I mentioned – we’re limited, and our minds will fall short.
And it’s in that shortcoming, in that weakness, where worship is our strength. Not because we’re worshipping, but because of the Who we’re worshipping.
It may be easier or more ‘natural’ to keep all the control in your hands and your brain; but it’s far more fruitful and peaceful to do the best you can and leave the rest to an almighty God who wants the best for you.
Worship gets our eyes off the horizontal of the world around us, and lifts our eyes up to the One who is bigger and better than whatever this world can offer.
I’m trying to get back on the frequent posting train ever since I got derailed by real life. In the meantime, here’s a collaborative playlist inspired by this post! You can add to it – in fact, you should add your favourite worship songs!