Idols- Season Me.
I was a church worship leader in high school. With a team of more vocally and musically talented folks than myself, I led the Praise and Worship team for about two years. I am not a professional singer. You may wonder how exactly I was leading the worship team. Well, let’s just say I can tell an off-key tune, I’m not tone-deaf and I have not caused windows to crack while singing in the shower. I have some knowledge on chords and music beats and because of that I can play a few songs on the guitar. I once wrote two songs, whose lyrics and chords I still have. However, music is not my forté. Too add to that, I am not particularly passionate about it. But it was not always like that. In high school I was very passionate about it then. However, I didn’t know that my passion for melodies and harmonies was selfish and an idol in my life. It wasn't until someone pointed it out to me, and his name wasn’t Simon Cowell.
I was in a boys’ only boarding school. Weekends were revered. They were the only times that had a semblance of home life. On one particular weekend, it started out as a perfect Sunday. Students trickled into the church hall that easily converted into a dining hall and parade ground upon need. The church pews were cleaner today. No pools of water were left by the students on duty. The weather seemed to add to the fact that this was going to be a great day. I had lined up a perfect list of praise songs. The stage was neat. The mics and speakers were set. The keyboard and drum set were in tune and my worship team was set to go. All fell in place that Sunday except one thing: the MC. Oh gosh! The moderator of the service was doing a lousy job, if you asked me at that time. Granted, the microphone levels were low, but could he not see that he was inaudible? The sound engineers increased the volume for his sake but the boy was hopeless; he wouldn’t be audible if his life depended on it.
The congregation of 800 men grew restless and began chatting. I was the weatherman and the congregation was the forecast; I knew a potentially bad Church service when I saw one. I was growing irate by the minute and the choleric in me wanted to march up that stage and show this novice how to MC in a simple gathering. I have come a long way as a follower of Christ. I look back at my reaction when I was in high school and it confirms that not only have I grown, but also that God was moulding my character (as he still is). One of my close friends, Michael, noticed my evident anxiety and told me to calm down, assuring that all would be well. It was in response to this that my idolatry was revealed. I opened my mouth and I couldn’t believe what I said.
“He’s going to ruin my worship!”
Before I even recollected what I had just said, my friend’s calm and gentle response drove the Holy Spirit straight into my heart with the sword of conviction.
“It’s God’s worship; not yours.”
I parted my lips to speak but only air came out. The words from Michael penetrated my defences and exploded in my heart with deep contrition. What had I just said? However, another voice parried the conviction. I reasoned to myself. Don’t the scriptures in Romans 12 ask us to use our gifts in excellence? Is not preaching, teaching, singing and being an MC meant to be performance art despite being worship to our Creator? It was the voice of my knocked-down idol trying to regain its pre-eminence in my heart. It had just been dethroned by the truth and it was trying desperately to get back in place by even using the scriptures. Beloved, don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe the whole hullabaloo of listen-to-the-lyrics-and-not-my-voice. I believe that ministry, especially stage ministries should be done excellently- all Christian songs, theatrical pieces, spoken word presentations, poems, preaching, teaching etc should be done excellently. People shouldn’t prepare mediocre sacrifices in the name of God-looks-at-the-heart. It’s a cop out from the excellence God calls us to. Be that as it may, I was only using that angle back then to cover up my idolatry. In truth, the leading got into my head. The praise from the guys after service became all about me and all about how I performed and sang well. I had taken the seat of God in my heart and loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. And when Michael spoke out, I reacted like Demetrius of Acts 20 who went up in arms when Paul the Apostle put his idols out of business. I may not have caused a riot like Demetrius, but in my heart, I had led a revolt against this MC who was ruining “my worship service”.
I learnt a fundamental lesson some time back about idols. And it is this: when idols are challenged in one’s life, you often go up in arms. Idols, especially among Christians, are often not bad things; they are good things that have been treasured more than God Almighty. Idols could range from your spouse, your boyfriend, your job/career, your moral record, your gifts and abilities, your parents, your friends, your reputation- good things that are elevated to be more important than God. And if you want to know what they are, like Demetrius in Acts 20, just threaten to take them away. Our reactions prove our hearts are in bed with an idol. Men and women in public ministries especially ought to watch out for this.
I was angry at what Michael had said to me, especially since he had said it with so much gentleness. If he had said it with spite, I would have had reason to discard it as untrue. When the MC was done, he called the worship team on stage. I regained my composure and put on a smiling face. The crowd shouldn’t see a frown, I figured. The microphones were switched on and I picked up the one in the centre. I discarded the conflict that Michael had presented in my thoughts and decided to do what needed to be done first. I ushered the congregation into worship and we began singing. My voice may have been present but God’s Spirit was absent. Then I realized that my microphone wasn’t audible. I mentioned to the sound engineers to increase the volume. They did. Then it happened. I felt a warm terrible surge course through my body. The microphone grew hot and I threw it to the ground. But it was a bit too late; the electric current from the metallic mic threw me to the ground. The instrumentalists stopped playing. The service stopped. Two of the worship team members came to my aid. One touched me and the electric current zapped them momentarily. My body was still conducting the electricity. I didn’t black out but the view was hazy. Someone kicked the faulty microphone away from reach and I was lifted off stage by a team of swift men. I was in shock for the rest of the day (no pun intended).
One of the teachers in school saw me later that afternoon and asked if I was okay. They said I looked stunned- like I had seen a ghost. The truth was that I was humbled that day, twice. You see, moments after the incident, I did a lot of reflecting. I realized that I had replayed the role that Lucifer had taken before the beginning of time. He had amassed glory to himself when it belonged to God. I was no different. The focus was on me, me, me. Realizing my sinfulness, I remarked that it was a wonder God hadn’t struck me dead all these Sundays. Then it hit me that he had struck me. You see the electric zap on stage was a wake-up call. I’m not saying God faulted the wires to teach me a lesson. No. But I’m saying that he used the incident to teach me a lesson on humility. He taught me that he is God and that I should take glory in Him alone and not in my abilities, my efforts, my gifts and the errors of others (whom I thought I was better than). That MC wasn’t lousy after all. He was handling a faulty mic. I thank God that the electric zap was spared for me and not him. I deserved it, in a sense. But I saw something beautiful out of it. That even when we spurn correction from the Michaels that God puts around us, God is loving enough to follow through to stop us from going down a terrible path
Some may say that to consider the electric shock as a wake-up call would be ill or would paint God is bad light. However, imagine a mother frying some samosas in hot oil. Suddenly that mother's child runs into the room and is heading for the boiling oil. What does the mother do? Her child is about to dive headlong into the arms of death or excruciating pain. The mother instantly commands the child "STOP!" The imperative from the mother is a command of love. Christ is like that mother and we are like that impulsive child. We are running into hot oil everyday and ultimately into hot oil eternally. God's command in the Bible to STOP is one of love. The impulsive child that sees the command as a restraint to their freedom will eventually pay the full price of disobedience. If God's commands are seen as obstacles to our liberties, even the barricading arms of the mother won't stop us from the danger ahead. On account of our rebellious and sinful lives, we will push the mother aside and keep running towards the hot oil. Today when you hear God speaking, don't push Him away for it will cost you nothing to stop. If anything, it will be your salvation. I urge you today beloved, drop your idols and obey the Lord your God.