“Can I play?”
I was neck deep in after-school clean up.
My hands already held two oversized water bottles, a Paw Patrol lunch box, a pair of turned-wrong-side-out sweaty socks, and I was reaching down to pick up the crumbly remnants of three half-eaten snack bowls.
“Can I play, Mommy?” He said again. “Pleeeease?”
I looked up this time.
His little hands gripped two tattered toy drum sticks. An equally-dilapidated drum hung by Velcro around his neck. Somehow, he’d managed to retrieve the stepstool from the downstairs bathroom, and there he was, standing on top of it in the middle of the living room, poised for a chartbuster performance.
I was less than amused.
I had a laundry list of things to do—the whole house to clean—and stopping for a five-year-old’s cacophonic rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” wasn’t one of them.
He began slowly.
The sound grew louder with each beat.
PUM-PUM-PUM. RAT-A-TAT-TAT. PUM-PUM-PUM-PUM.
Before I knew it, his sisters had wondered in. Their hands held bells and shakers and makeshift drumsticks of their own. A whole band formed before my eyes. Voices sang, arms flailed, instruments played, legs pranced around in oblong circles.
I laughed out loud at the mere sight.
And that’s when it struck me. When I set down all the stuff. Oh, the magnetic power of undignified worship.
That’s what we need more of.
The kind of worship David displayed when he danced half naked “with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14 NIV). The kind of worship Miriam led when she took tambourine in hand “and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing” (Exodus 15:20).
Undignified worship draws us in, you see. Its unpolished authenticity, its uncovered vulnerability beckons us to watch. But it calls us to do more than watch. It’s like a rust-fendered 1960s Shelby Mustang. We see in nostalgic possibility. It’s like a lopsided, made-from-scratch lemon meringue pie. Our mouths salivate in delicious opportunity.
Only persnickety, judgmental types would ever criticize such makeshift masterpieces. Only those bound by the people-pleasing prison of propriety would refuse to partake if given half the chance. The mere sight of the car or pie is foreshadowing.
Participation is what we want.
A taste. A ride.
See what I mean by magnetic power of undignified worship?
Yet so often we do resist, at least when it comes to worship. We resist because worship has been so dissected, so scrutinized, so defined and redefined. The mere concept, in fact, makes many people confused. Do we sing old hymns or contemporary choruses? Do we have a pipe organ or drums? What about hands clapping, arms raising, legs standing, knees bending, feet tapping, body swaying, full-on dancing?
What are we supposed to do?
I wish we could turn back time and realize none of these questions ultimately matter. These disputes over our outward expressions. These attempts to control worship, to regulate preference, to harness indignity like a rabid dog. They are human concerns, not God’s.
They have so little to do with the heart.
And the heart is where we need undignified worship most.
We need everyday opportunities where we can lose sight of ourselves. We need everyday moments in the middle of our living rooms where we can become fully engaged with God, fully present in the moment, and therefore, fully alive.
Worship alone has the power to do that.
Because worship, plain and simple, is a heart looking up toward the Creator of all things. It’s a mind acknowledging there is a great Giver. It’s a soul confessing, a spirit conceding, a will yielding to the reality that our Father truly lives—that He is who He says He is—right in the middle of whatever circumstances we are facing.
And that spiritual act alone has the capacity to pull us out of depressive stupors. It can rally downcast hearts, remove bitter loneliness, shrink crushing anxiety, cover distressing inadequacies, and fill us with hope once again.
But we have to come.
Like the little drummer boy did.
We have to call that theological kettle black and have the courage to cry out in whatever way seems fitting. As David did, when he said to Michal, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6: 21-22).
We have to put down all the stuff.
Whatever it is that holds us back from connecting with God. Whatever it is that makes us want to please people, to create unbiblical theological boundaries, to dignify ourselves. Whether in a crowd or all alone, we have to be willing to be undignified in our hearts if we want to truly worship.
Not a single one of us, after all, has the “finest gifts” to bring. Not one has anything that is fit to “lay before the king.” We, both you and I, are just “poor boys.” We’re just immature, imperfect men and women who need the courage to show up anyway, to willingly pound on that metaphorical drum, to offer undignified worth-ship that garners a heavenly smile. Worship meant to solely honor the Lord our God.
So play, my little drummer boy. Play!
Play loud and proud! Shout your song to the rooftops until your little heart swells with the fullness of God’s presence and the magnetic power of your childlike spiritual offering draws me and everyone else reading this to God’s throne room of grace.
Play that drum, my child! To your little heart’s content, play!
Maybe then, I’ll play my drum too.