Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I Can Only Imagine

[what's brewing: something sweet...]

While it’s hard to say whether the change has come as a result of my language learning, cultural adjustment or simply as a matter of time, over the past couple of months there has been a change in my experience of worship with our church family here. It’s hard to describe the difference because the shift has been slow and subtle, but it is a change that I feel in my soul and it ripples through and affects every other part of who I am. Previously my experience in worship here was guided more by tradition or habit than the true experience of worshipping my Creator.

While the setting and style of worship were obviously different than what I grew up with in North America, the idea of coming together with believers to sing and study and praise the Lord was familiar and it was easy to connect with that traditional experience. But my mind was working overtime in order to engage with it all – learning new songs, reading Scripture in a new language (and one that varies greatly from the everyday spoken language I’ve been studying) and intensive listening to understand and appreciate the sermons being delivered. I was encouraged by the experience, but it was a lot of work.

Recently I’ve noticed that the level of work needed to engaging in worship has dropped significantly. I know the songs and the music so well that my heart can engage in a way it never could before. The off-key singing and the tinny sound of the keyboard no longer distract me as much – it fits within the framework of this new worship setting. My familiarity with Scripture in our new language has increased to the point that I can usually just read along, not struggle to translate each verse into English in order to understand it. I can simply listen to the teaching and take it in without straining so much to piece it all together.

When we leave after a church service, I am encouraged and feel as though my cup has been refilled. Before, I was desperate for a Sunday afternoon nap because I’d been mentally working so hard all morning. It happened so gradually that I didn’t see it, but now that I feel the difference, I am amazed by how much it has changed my ability to connect spiritually with the people in our church.

The bond between us used to be our shared identity as children of God that unites believers around the world; now I feel like an active member of this local body of believers.

And this past Sunday, when our music team prepared a special song to share with the congregation, I suddenly realized how right it felt to hear these words sung in a new language, in this new setting, in a new way. The song was familiar to me in English, but hearing it in their language increased its meaning so much because of the many experiences that I now bring to understanding and appreciating the impact of the words to the song “I Can Only Imagine.”

Several months ago I would have experienced that song very differently, but this week my mind was overridden by my heart and I cried as I listened to the lyrics. I pictured the setting that will one day bring each one of us and the people we are working with into His presence, with all the burdens and struggles of this life finally relieved. Oh, what a beautiful picture – I can only imagine.

I Can Only Imagine
by Bart Millard

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine

I can only imagine


I can only imagine [x2]

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine


TJ said...

Your words are an encouragement to me as I am just beginning in a new place.

stephanie garcia said...

Would you mind sharing the words in Spanish? I would love to teach this to our church family as well.

Shan in Japan said...

I remember having that same feeling at church. One day I realized that I was not just attending church to learn more Japanese but that I had actually been worshipping together with my brothers and sisters there. It was so gradual that I didn't notice it happen, either. What an encouragement and praise!
And, I LOVE that song!

Grammy said...

It has taken me about 1 1/2 years and now I'm feeling that I can worship in a different language too!

Randall and Rachel Beita said...

Isn´t it so awsome when this happens!!!

Becky Aguirre said...

That is an awesome song...I have often noticed that watching a familiar movie or singing a familiar song in another language makes me focus more on the words and meanings...so glad that you are experiencing a shift in your comprehension so that you can have more fellowship there where you are! :)

Tim and Susan said...

It IS so great when you can finaly worship from your heart in your new language and culture.



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