Why I cry in worship and the woman with Polio

November 4, 2011

This is a quick follow up to my previous blog “Jesus is my boyfriend and the culture of the God snog song.” (which I suggest you read with this if you haven’t done so already).

Some years ago, I was ministering in India when I found myself praying for a crowd of people in a small, humid and packed out building/shed.

As I stood on the platform with the interpreter, I noticed a woman moving towards the front. The crowd seemed to part for her and I understood why.  Now hear me correctly when I say that she was mesmerizingly beautiful. It just wasn’t in a sexual manner.  She just carried this amazing sense about her that I find hard to articulate.  There was a peace/shalom about her and grace in her eyes and face that was so compelling,  I couldn’t look away.

When she got to the front, I asked the interpreter to ask her what she wanted prayer for.  The conversation went pretty much like this;

Me; Sandeep please ask what the prayer is for.

Interpreter; “pastor, please just pray…”

Me; “please ask what for”

Interpreter; “can’t you see?”

Me; “See what?”

Interpreter: “please pastor, just look and pray I don’t want to embarrass…”

I was a bit confused but looking around at the woman again, I was for a long moment utterly stunned and a bit confused.  In front of me was a seemingly different woman.  I can feel the emotion of the moment as I type this out for the very first time (although I have told the story before through tears).

The previously beautiful, serene, mesmerisingly beautiful woman was in fact not only a victim of polio, whose arm looked like a little twig but her face was completely scarred from some kind of skin disease…. but I hadn’t seen it before!?  It was definitely however the same woman.

It was at that moment that I felt a deep sense of the Holy Spirit saying to me;

“son, I just let you see her, how I see her all the time…beautiful in my sight…beautiful to me… my precious, precious daughter.”

And for the first time I got it. In fact it broke me and still does to this day.  All of us are simply this; Gods beautiful, precious creations.  People who are dearly loved by a Father in heaven who so loved us that he gave up his one and only son…so that one day every tear will be wiped from our eyes.

It remains to this day, perhaps the most impacting moment of my life alongside meeting Karen, the birth of my daughters and my first encounter with Jesus.  It broke my heart and changed my outlook on my view of mission, Gods heart, women, the poor, worship…the whole deal really.

So do I cry in worship? You bet I do. (And not at bad songs…that just frustrates me)  Do I cry when I read the bible sometimes? Of course I do.  I feel moved to tears by many things; suffering, Gods presence, hope, salvation, longing to be home with God, my family, loss, joy…I could go on.  The truth is I’m an emotional guy, meeting Jesus brought that out in me.  I had to leave the room when I was watching “the time travellers wife” with Karen.  How macho is that!  Sorry to upset all you blokes!

The thing is, I want to make sure we get the fact that at least for me, the debate over men and worship is not about the demonstration of emotion or a reaction against intimacy.

I’m a big fan of the psalms.  In fact one the psalms I repeatedly turn to is 27, which has at its centre;

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple…”

In fact, I know that psalm so well, I haven’t looked it up to write it down.  I have to say, I have zero issue with saying that I will gaze upon the “beauty of the Lord.”

I along with the whole human race have been granted these incredible gifts of emotion and the capacity for love. I separate that from romantic love. It takes great a great lyricist to make that separation clear, its so subtle.

My over riding concern is for those who have yet to encounter the life changing call of Jesus on their lives, not whether I feel great about the songs in church.

The priority for me is the gospel and creating a culture where every man woman and child can experience the deep love of God and the message that by the Holy Spirt we can cry Abba father. (Rom 8:15).

Bottom line, yes I’m probably on old style bloke in many senses but if you see me crying when I preach, when I’m worshipping, or praying for someone and you don’t think that’s manly, in the nicest possible way, that’s for you to deal with.

Deo Optimo Maximo.




  1. Dean Gray says:

    Great to hear that a true man will open up to his own weaknesses and let out cries of emotion for God’s wonderful creation.
    Being allowed to worship and praise God is a God given right and gift and if we choose to take that on, then in fact we choose to feel the ups and downs that God sees day in and day out in this world.
    The fact that God allowed His one and only son to come to this world to die ‘once for all’ is amazing and such a huge sacrifice, one to be awed and speechless about.
    I too cry at the amazement and wonder of how much God just loves me for who I am and what He has done, not only for me, but for the whole world, but I am part of a much bigger picture, a masterpiece that God can see all the time. There are no words that can ever describe how awesome and great our God is. But in our own way we must venture into the courts of the King of Kings and if that means giving up masculinity, then so be it. It is a minor sacrifice to be ever allowed to be in a relationship with the Creator of the whole universe.
    I love God, and I love Jesus. God is my Father and always will be, and its His party and I can cry if I want to.

  2. Simon Ford says:

    Hi Carl, great post as always.

    I was also in India recently and had a very similar experience. Our team had been asked to lead a Leprosy Camp event and so we planned the ‘service’ and walked to the gathered people. On the way, our leader, tells us there are so many people gathered, they are going to split them into two groups and can we lead both of them. I offered to speak to this second group and asked our heavenly Father for inspiration. The only thought in my head was the word ‘masterpiece’.

    So I spoke to these victims of leprosy about how they were God’s masterpiece, made by Him, loved by Him, valued by Him, protected by Him… and then, after songs and distribution of food, we prayed for them individually.

    It was only when I saw photos when we had returned home did I notice any of the disfigured faces or limbs. I thank God that for that moment he taught me and showed me how he sees and treats people.

    And yes, I cried too.

    See you tomorrow in Stubbington.

    (fireman sword)

  3. I think you have hit the nail on the head there Carl. It is about time we reframed this debate to get to the heart of the matter and get away from our petty agendas.

    We are dealing with worshipping the living God.

    So, thank you.

  4. Nail on head hit perfectly thanks Carl

  5. Shaun says:

    Amazing story Carl.

    On romantic love for God. Personally for me I see it as analogous. Christ is like a bridegroom and the church is like a bride. When I call Jesus the lover of my soul it doesn’t mean I want to crawl in bed with him (*VOMIT*). It means I love him in a similar manner, in dedication and depth. All believers are called the bride of Christ. Just as all believers are called to be in sonship to The Father. It isn’t about taking it literally in that women have to act like hairy men when they think about sonship or men have to feel like swooned women when they think about bridal identity.

  6. Graham says:

    Is crying manly? Jesus cried- think that settles the matter.

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