We tend to sit in the same location at church, middle right side every Sunday.  We are creatures of habit, aren’t we?  We like comfort and routine. However, when I was at the peak of my concussion issues, we moved to the very back row against the wall.  We sat there because talking to people was physically too hard, and there in the back row, I could come in late and leave early without having to make contact with anyone. Church was hard. I didn’t want to pretend that everything was okay, and in the back row, I was just able to hide it all. 

There was little joy in the back row during that season of my life.  I was overwhelmed by my circumstances and doubted that I could experience a normal “me” again. Everything seemed to keep getting a little number.  Moving to the back row seemed like a natural progression, but it’s amazing how a little movement sometimes allows for a much bigger picture. 

In that back row, on the hottest day of summer, I sat behind a man I’ll call Tom. Tom was a grown man with some mental disability.  His speech and actions would be called “abnormal,” but what I saw when he worshiped in the second to back row made me weep.  This man gave me an image of worship that I will never forget.                             

The minute the music played Tom’s wounded body lifted, intense joy seized his face, and he danced and sang so loudly and with such emotion that it was nothing but a depiction of pure beauty — pure worship.  He loved Jesus.  He knew the joy of worshiping Him even amidst his circumstances.  

He was in the back row because life was hard and probably lonely.  But in that back row, he worshiped with such joy that everyone could see he was far from alone. 

Maybe to those around us, Tom was a scene of disturbance, back row worthy, but God knew my heart needed to see Tom. My life, which was also hiding in the back row because of physical hurt, sadness, and disappointment, needed to see beautiful worship.  At that moment, I felt Jesus’s whisper of truth… I was seen in the hiding by a loving God who was more significant than my circumstances.  He was still the same God who I loved before things got hard, still in control of my life, and forever worthy of my praise.  I was so disappointed by my current situation that I let my own stale heart get in the way of praising the God that I truly trusted and fully loved.  

There has been healing since my encounter with Tom.  Physical healing?  Yes.  I’m back to the right middle section of chairs with people surrounding me. I’m back to having a life filled with joyful conversations on the way in and out of the doors every week.  But more importantly, I have ingrained truth that worship is not circumstantial but a constant pouring of my heart to the one who sees me and loves me even in the back row.

 “O Lord, I will praise you with all my heart and tell everyone about the marvelous things you do.  I will be glad, yes, filled with joy because of you. I will sing your praises.”  – Psalms 9:1-2 

Melissa Cheatham

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