EMMA STEVENSON

worship through writing // worship from the perspective of a teacher

Since graduating as a teacher in Australia, I had to learn that you’re more or less half a step ahead of your students, and most of the time you are just learning the lesson 3 seconds before they do. Once I gave in to this truth, I learned to strike a holy chord in a small child, to uncover something they couldn’t see for themselves or didn’t quite know how to reach. I help them learn how to get it themselves instead of just giving them the answer. I like to think God teaches us to worship in the same way. I don't think there is any one formula, but gradually we shake our old heavy mindsets and understand a new way to worship.

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Telling stories is one way I worship. I wish sometimes that my story was more neatly contained, that all the dots somehow came together and connected so that you could see the natural progression of a story or at least some resemblance of an image. I sometimes get frustrated with God because I can’t trace the story along with my finger; the lines seem much like those of a two-year-old on her first day with a crayon. I don’t quite yet know how to hold the crayon, and I think that's the conclusion God kind of wanted me to get to, that there is something precious in the unfiltered nonsense children say, in the unedited version of their drawings, the innocence of their thinking and the rawness of their expression. I think that childlike state is something that God likes us to go back to and revisit often, especially in our worship.

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Most of my writing begins with terrible first drafts, which reminds me every single day that I am also a work in progress. No matter how much my perfectionism tries to supersede the story, I won't always get anything right the first time around. I went through this phase where I couldn't write. I tried very hard and nothing came; all I could do was write down other people’s things: notes from Stephen King, lines from Robin Williams's films, Beyoncé lyrics. Finally I got to a place where I couldn’t write other people's nice, neatly ordered things anymore. I had to write about my mess, my unfiltered stories that often were from lonely of rejection, places of abandonment, places of isolation and humiliation. As someone who has struggled depression, alcohol addictions and sexual promiscuity, at first it was easy to see my story as a pile of trash that even I didn't want to touch with a ten foot pole, but over the summer, through the Temple Project, God was redefining the way I worship and teaching me that worship is not about a song or a Sunday morning. It's not about me being perfect and trying to hold it all together all the time, it is about fixing my eyes on Him.

Perhaps this is why God has given me writing and working with children and teaching in a perfect combination to remind me to stay childlike in my interpretation of the world – not in a naive or childish way but in a way that allows me to understand simple truths that I can so easily complicate. Sometimes, I can get caught up in this obsessive belief that if I run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone at exactly the right moment, I'll be fine. That my life will work itself out because I perfected each step, and because I tried really hard to make it happen all on my own.

I always get the same image whenever I worship God. I realize it may seem cliche, but sometimes we are always looking for complicated when easy and simple is right in front of us. It's of a small child dancing around in a ballerina outfit as God is sitting there, just like a Dad, eyes fixed on her, and her eyes are fixed on him. She is not looking around to see if anyone else is watching her, only Him. She is not distracted by all the goings on about her. She is not worried about if her dance moves are ok. She just dances the way she feels. That is what worship translates to for me.

// Emma Stevenson 

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