I recently found myself in worship singing,

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You.

And then I ducked.

I ducked because I suddenly remembered that God had warned Moses that if Moses actually saw God, he would instantly die. Instead, God offered to cover Moses' eyes while he passed by, and then, once he passed by Moses, to let Moses see his "backside."

Since I didn't want to die that instant—I had a playoff game to watch after church—I stopped singing. But I didn't want others to think I didn't love God, so I started singing again, but quietly, with a revised text:

Cover the eyes of my heart, Lord
Cover the eyes of my heart
I want to see your backside
I want to see your backside.

This version failed to inspire me for some reason, so I stopped singing the chorus again, even though it risked my Christian reputation. Still, I joined in heartily at these lines:

To see you high and lifted up
Shining in the light of your glory
Lord, pour out your power and love
as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy.

And then I remembered that, according to Paul, "high and lifted up" is precisely where God is not to be found. I was singing like those who expect to see God in wondrous signs and others who think they'll find him in glorious wisdom. But Paul said that Jesus is not to be found "high and lifted up" but "down and lowly": "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:22–23, ESV). So I began revising these lines:

 To see you low and despised
Shining in the light of your glory …
Lord, pour out your weakness and love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy.

That last part—about "pour out your weakness and love"—just came to me, I assume by the sudden and personal inspiration of the Spirit. In the midst of my inventiveness, I remembered another teaching of Paul, where he talked about God's power being made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). So why should I be panting after power when what I should delight in, like Paul, is weakness?

By the end of the song—which we repeated so many times I was able to work on my new lyrics as well as text my son, check The New York Times, and forward an email from work—I was a little depressed. A more biblical song I had created, no doubt. But it just didn't make me feel spiritual anymore. I mean, what's the point of going to worship, getting caught up in inspirational lyrics, if we don't feel inspired at the end?

I was increasingly troubled as the service went on, because it seemed like every song wanted me to seek God's face (certain death!) or see God's glory (which meant thinking about the Cross, where Jesus seems to think he was most glorified—see John 17:1–2). I didn't want to die yet, and I was in no mood to think about the crucifixion. Give me a break—I just wanted to see Jesus!

I left church pretty upset. A few days later, it suddenly dawned on me that I had been looking for him in the wrong places.

Jesus said to his disciples that when they preached, "He who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16). It seems that Jesus believed that to hear the preached Word was as good as being in his presence and hearing him preach. But while my pastor was preaching, instead of listening to the Word that Jesus was preaching through him, I was ruminating on why I wasn't feeling Jesus in my heart and feeling more inspired.

Jesus also said that when we partake of the bread and wine in Communion, we are partaking of him. I'd been praying to merely see (and hear) Jesus, when Jesus wants to do so much more: actually live in me, become a part of me.

And then on Monday there was the homeless man, standing at the red light, holding out his hands, asking for handouts. As is my custom, I cast my eyes away from him. It's a pretty uncomfortable moment, isn't it? I mean, I gave at the church already. So I stopped looking at Jesus standing there, begging (cf. Matt. 25).

I don't know what I'm going to do next week in worship. Because it turns out, I'm much more interested in feeling spiritually high and lifted up than I am in actually seeing Jesus in his actual "glory." 

Note: "Open the Eyes of My Heart" was written by Paul Baloche. Copyright 1997, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He is author of Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Power of the Holy Spirit (Baker). He occasionally blogs at markgalli.com.

Related Elsewhere:

Previous SoulWork columns include:

Why the Bible is Not a Book of Moral Laws | Contrary to popular belief, it's the startling gift book. (January 12, 2012)
A Christmas Prayer | We, like the shepherds in the field, like the woman at the tomb, are astonished, trembling in wonder and in fear. (December 22, 2011)
Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders | What's a pastor for? (December 1, 2011)

In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is former editor in chief of Christianity Today and author, most recently, of Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals.
Previous SoulWork Columns: