worship through change // learning to worship in New York City

I remember when I first had dreams of moving to New York from Seattle. The thought began as a silly curiosity and turned into a deep desire that scared me more than anything. When I first arrived I was showered with blessing and favor, quickly finding work in the fashion industry I studied in school. I had come to Christ in college, just two years before, and moved with a heart to figure out what it meant to be a light in my workplace. But New York City has a funny way of mixing up who you are and who people want you to be. 

I somehow agreed to work 7 days a week for multiple months at a time and opportunities kept presenting themselves. I knew the strength I was receiving to work these unrealistic hours wasn’t my own, but my ability to find God became confusing. Looking back, my faith seemed anchored to a sliding scale weighted by how much I could offer Him. I was used to preparing for church and presenting myself ready to serve each morning. But when I had no energy left and was worn out from working for other people the last thing I wanted to do was work for God. For the first time I think I realized what receiving from God meant: receiving not only love from God but also love for God.


Worshiping God starts with receiving. It means allowing him to show you his wondrous self first, and then in response turning to him in awe of who he is, in thankfulness for what he’s done, in trust of what you deeply desire and in surrender of what you fear and doubt. I know I don’t want to sort-of, partially understand why people change the course of their lives to know God. I don’t want to fake it. Quite frankly, all that God is, in his mightiness and holiness, scares me. But he has revealed his grace and gentleness through his love. And that changes everything.

If you find yourself in those quiet moments of desperation asking God to make Himself real again, or maybe for the first time, let me assure you that His closeness doesn’t falter even when our loyalty does. I know I need God now and forever, not soon or someday, and we have access to that through receiving from Him first.


So here I stand, with my doubting heart and my quivering faith, holding my arms outstretched ready to receive. For through what God has already done for me I find my source of worship. This crazy season of work has finally ended, but not before God revealed to me that my ability to present myself well for him, or give him anything out of my own strength at all, is meaningless. I’m sure this will be a lesson I’ll have to learn again and again, but by God’s grace he has promised to bring every good work to fruition in us:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

Being in New York has taught me that all I can do is stand, and when life is all done and over, remain standing with arms still outstretched receiving. 


// Janel Navran