The water was high on the rocks in the flood control channel. I flew along parallel with the water, powering down the freeway, ogling the tidal flow beside me, eager now to see the marsh.

I accelerated up the overpass and swept down the other side of it, through a long banked turn, and there it was — the salt marsh, flooded. It was filled floor-flat. Where there had been mud, now there was a lake; where there had been sinuous narrow marshy channels, now there were wide rivers — marsh to bay, one body of water, with the ocean beyond, rocking the continents.

Life is tidal. I love it. I don’t. I don’t when my emotions flood me under. My experiences, thoughts and feelings, taken at the flood and not, at high tide and low tide, can be a little disconcerting.

Last Saturday evening I sat in Brown Chapel at Point Loma University and watched a band, all young musicians and singers, lead worship. People in the audience stood, some raised their hands, some went forward to stations to do art, to write, to reflect.

I did nothing. I just sat, and watched. I felt nothing. I didn’t stand. I never raised my hands. What was moving some of these worshipers, what filled them with passion, left me as placid as a mud flat.

It’s interesting, how we are differently moved.

And then again, the other day, driving my car and listening to worship song playing loudly on the car system, I broke and cried. It was a song I’ve heard many times, stored on my iPhone, but this time it washed me under.

What’s the deal? Obviously, the movements of our emotions, our spirits, these are not something we control. Our passions, our worship moments come on us as they will, not by choice or by plan but somewhat inexplicably — low feelings unscripted and high emotions unanticipated.

But despite this tidal reality, this emotional norm, we are easily made uneasy with ourselves. When others are moved by a worship service, a prayer, movie, song or other public performance, then sometime we too feel that we should be moved. In church, I have experienced an identity shift crisis over this. Should I be true to my own feelings, my own identity, or must I conform to the current group’s identity, their experience? It is common, in church, to experience a peer mandate to “get with it,” spiritually.

But when we experience church differently from others, the worship dissonance may disrupt our sense of harmony and create internal conflict. “What’s wrong with me?” we sometimes muse in worship settings. Others around me are most alive to the moment, I feel most shockingly dead.

I can stand should-to-shoulder with others who are pouring out their hearts to God in worship and feel nothing. I have even had the unpleasant experience of feeling critical of fellow worshipers, as I stood with them, and critical of the whole “worship” experience around me. It is possible, to be insanely yucked up while others are insanely fired up.

What’s wrong? Nothing. Nothing is wrong when we experience a worship disconnect more than is wrong with anyone else.

Jesus himself explained this quite nicely in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Jesus was saying that we who are born of the Spirit, the children of God, the ones who know and worship God, don’t control the coming and going of the Holy Spirit of God.

Face it, we don’t know when or where the Holy Spirit will flood us, move us, emote us, inspire us, and when He won’t.

“Duh!” we don’t control God. We don’t control inspiration. We don’t control the presence of God. We don’t control the tidal movements of God. We don’t decide when we will be moved, when not. We don’t control the inner workings of our souls. We don’t have much control over emotions.

That acknowledged, here’s the deal: Don’t try.

I’ve been through it all — the ecstatic moments, the inert ones, the high tide, the mud. I’ve been struck emotional by the presence of God. I’ve been in his presence and felt absolutely no awareness of him. We all have.

The upshot of all this?

Relax. The tide comes in, the tide goes out; that’s normal, within you, with God.

Life, worship, emotions, your own soul — it’s all tidal.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Elizabeth , I sure enjoyed playing Bunco with her, Her smile and her sweet, sweet
    spirit just warmed my heart.. she now has a friend her ( cat ) what a beautiful lady
    I blessed to know her….. Pat

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