What a Toothache Taught Me About Worship
“I just saw Ann Voskamp” was not the first thing I thought I would hear after getting through the LGA airport security. I scanned my friend’s face as I would a map for some specific direction on our search for Ann, but we were dumbfounded. In one excited breath, Bethany described the sight of Ann’s adopted baby, and her slight remorse of not having the courage to introduce herself while she could have. I remembered the book inside my guitar bag was “The Broken Way,” and it was no coincidence that what I chose to read on my way to the Delight Retreat was written by the same woman that stood barefoot with Bethany, waiting for the very same normal and mundane airport frisk.
I clutched onto Bethany’s hand like a vigilant mother through an unknown airport for any trace of Ann’s signature bob. A half hour later, we sat at our flight gate in a defeated stupor, while I shoveled the last morsels of a dry banana nut muffin into mouth. “You don’t understand; I missed the opportunity of my life,” Bethany’s voice sounded pained. While I listened, I felt a sharp stab in the back of my mouth which shot fast into my neck. I too was in pain, but for different reasons. I had set off on a trip with a bothersome and infectious tooth.
I didn’t know why, in a moment’s time, a person could be lost out of your sight. Or why God seems to place almost tangible moments in your hands that never may never last inside your grip. Or why teeth still have to grow up into your adulthood...
But some things we will never understand.
It’s the acceptance of not knowing everything that puts us - and our own mini-god complex - in check.
Our now moving Uber car bumped up and down causing me to put pressure on the side of my mouth. I was sure an infection was starting, and the immense pain started to numb the left side of my face. We were headed for an hour long drive to the retreat, and our driver, Leanne, asked us questions along the way.
“So, where y’all heading to?”
“Oh! We are going to like, um, a Christian retreat!” I answered.
“We are meeting a bunch of girls from all around the country for the weekend.”
“So, ya’ll are like nuns?”
Bethany and I looked at each other in unbelief trying to hold back laughter. To think someone would mistake me for a nun was almost charming! I thought of myself, in a long black gown and habit, sitting in an Uber on the way to a convent. A run-away young adult from New York called to live a life set apart from the world (and romantic relationships).
I exhaled a heavy sigh thinking back on my younger self, a girl absent in her peculiar ways, perhaps painting on her red lips to meet with a boy who would numb her pain for a short while. Yet, here I was now, being asked if I was a nun! I thanked God quietly for the laugh, but mostly and importantly the extraction of the person I used to be. I guess which was a bit like my face – slightly numbed, and in need of a serious removal surgery.
I’ve quickly learned that it is hard to give God praise when you don’t feel like it. In the midst of those seemingly never ending seasons when everything is going wrong - and when nothing is panning out according to your plans – It’s hard. Oh clap your hands all ye people? Shout unto God with the voice of triumph? How in the world!
Yet God tells us in everything, give thanks.
After meeting many girls throughout the day, unpacking, and trying to make myself comfortable, it was time to settle down and enjoy a time of worship. As a musician and a girl who loves to sing, this would be my favorite time (and the time where I feel most connected with God), yet tonight when I opened my mouth I felt uncomfortably dishonest.
Truthfully I didn’t want to praise God. The thoughts of my problems loomed around me as were the girls who lifted up their hands in thanks to God.
When am I going to find a job? Am I ever going to support myself and get away from my father? Does God even want me in this relationship with my boyfriend? What’s going to happen to me? What if I make all the wrong decisions?
Yet, in face of all these unanswered questions, that night I realized: praising God is a choice. Singing to God is a choice. Worshiping God is a choice.
I wasn’t there to just let songs emotionally take me over to escape my problems. I wasn’t supposed to just sing loudly with abandonment to numb myself.
I was supposed to sing to God, in acknowledgement of His greatness, and my smallness. I was supposed to sing because He is all knowing and I am not. To show Him; through it all I will trust you. That He knows me more than I can ever know myself. That He knows better than me, and that I acknowledge Him as good.
Not to muster up emotions of joy or to perform an easy act of escapism, but to willingly open my mouth, and to give Him praise for knowing me and my needs, even through the pain.
Bridgette Rose is a Staten Islander who loves caring for stray cats, drinking tea, and reading YA fiction. When she isn't rewatching The Office, she spends her time as the Outreach Coordinator for a Christian based music school called DGRockers, located in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Instagram.