Do you know how many lightbulbs there are in your house? I didn’t know how many were in my house until I counted them this week. I counted 85, that’s more than I thought I would have and I probably missed a few. (If anyone in my house reads this, they will probably go through the house and count them accurately and let me know exactly how many there are in our house, but don’t wait for an update because probably nobody in my house will read this.) I can’t imagine how many lightbulbs we had in our house in Indiana. I would guess we had at least double that amount.
Last week, I took Jorge and Julia to Villa Nueva for one of Julia’s cancer doctor appointments. Jorge asked if we could run in to Wal Mart to buy some fluorescent light bulbs. You see, we had stopped there a month ago and picked up two new light bulbs and Jorge said they had cut his electric bill down significantly. He wanted to replace the rest of his light bulbs with fluorescents, we bought four more. That was enough for every light in his house.
Allow me to do some math here. Jorge has 4 people who live in his house and 6 light bulbs. That’s 1.5 light bulbs per person. I have 9 people who live in my house. That makes a little more than 9 lightbulbs per person. At this point, you are probably thinking “big deal”. I think this is important, though. It illustrates a point for me that has been in the back of my mind for some time. It illustrates that Jorge and I are different. This isn’t a surprise to me. It’s probably not a surprise to you. We come from different cultural backgrounds. We come from different social backgrounds. We come from different family backgrounds. We come from different economic backgrounds. (He likes to point out, though, that we are all American’s.) There are so many ways that we are different. These differences are a part of what makes us who we are, they make us individuals. Really, these differences are what make us good and useful to God. We are all different tools in God’s hands. (God doesn’t need 200,000,000 hammers.)
The thing is, sometimes when our differences meet, they cause discomfort or awkwardness. I’m not saying they have to cause discomfort or awkwardness, or even that they should. I’m just laying out there what I have felt and seen. Here’s an example of a specific place where some of our differences meet. Because of my background, I have in my mind the way “church” looks. Jorge has in his mind the way “church” looks. That specific look for each of us comes from the different worlds that we grew up in. It comes from the way I have been experiencing church for the last 40 or so years. It comes from the specific way that he has experienced church for the last 20 or so years. I come from what I consider to be a fairly conservative background. In my church in Indiana, when we worship together, it is pretty calm. Sometimes we clap, but not often. Jorge comes from a world where a worship service looks quite different. In his world, here in Guatemala, they don’t clap sometimes, they clap all the time. (Sometimes people even dance.) I admit sometimes it makes me uncomfortable.
The most awesome thing, though, is that it doesn’t really matter either way. When we come together to worship, we come together through the same gate, the narrow one. (Matthew 7:13-14) When we come together to worship, we come with the same purpose. We come together to bring honor and glory to God. When we worship together, all of the differences don’t matter. When we pull away all of the external things, when we look at our hearts, we are exactly the same. We are both sinners saved by the grace and mercy of God. My sins and his sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. Underneath that umbrella, it doesn’t matter how many light bulbs we have. It doesn’t matter what I do with my hands or what someone else does with their hands.
Our worship shouldn’t start in our hands and work it’s way in. It should happen the other way, worship starts in our souls and works it’s way out. What happens on the outside with me isn’t any better or worse than what happens on the outside with Jorge. Our light bulb to person ratio doesn’t really matter. What matters is that in that moment of worship, our God to person ratio is 1:1. Our other differences don’t matter. One form isn’t any better or any worse than the other it is just different, that’s how God designed it. (Wait until I tell Jorge about LED bulbs!)