Being able to walk in a straight line is not a test for someone that is impaired; it is apparently difficult for any human. In a recent CNN article (see it here), scientists have discovered that some mechanism in our brain causes us to stray to the right or to the left in a zigzag pattern that eventually turns into one large circle if we do not have an external point of reference to aim for. Researcher Jan Souman said, “The lesson from this study is that, if you want to walk straight, use a landmark such as a tower, mountain, or the sun to update your direction.”
This is probably not “news” to you, but I think it is a point worth pondering when it comes to my previous blog post on religion being worthless. In that post I said that true worship looks up, out and in while fruitless religion just does one of those three (usually just in). If you use the metaphor this article uses of being stranded in the Sahara desert and needing to make it back to camp, the only way to survive in this scenario is to look up, out and in. The “up” would be keeping your focus on a constant, such as the sun. The “out” would be looking to the far distance to make sure you are still going the right direction. And the “in” is looking inside yourself and knowing how much energy you have going forward. If this is what happens to us in a survival situation, why do we think we can get by in everyday life without a proper combination of these three elements and still have “life to the fullest”?
The problem with Post Modern culture today is that too much weight is given to personal experience. We think that what we have experienced and have seen for ourselves forces the entire world must operate this way. In short, we sometimes make exceptions into the norm. For example, I’ve been in numerous church services where people were manufacturing emotions out of people, pastors have forced kids to respond by using pressure tactics, and I’ve even seen leaders try to teach people how to speak in tongues (even though scripture describes it as a gift, not a skill learned). Should I say that because I have had these experiences I can clearly say that all emotion in worship is wrong, every time a kid responds in a service is because they are duped by a speaker, and speaking in tongues should be banned in churches because of the abuses of a few? The answer is obviously “no.” This is the reason we need something external, something “other” than ourselves, to help us determine direction and truth. This is where I believe worship comes into play and gives us God to lift our eyes to, our fellow man to lend our hand to and hear out, and then our personal experiences to contribute to the conversation.
If we return to the analogy of being stranded in the Sahara, we see the importance of all three elements of true worship. It is also easy to see how worship can easily slip into misguided religion. People that only focus on God end up ignoring their fellow man and the second part of the greatest commandment given by Jesus. People that only focus on others ignore the holiness of God and the only source from which we can draw our strength from if we truly want to help others. And I addressed in my last blog what happens when we only focus on ourselves. Hopefully, if you have found yourself walking in circles as of late, you can all find a way to better balance these three elements of worship so that you can one day get out of the desert you currently have found yourself in.