What is worship?
Before I had children, I thought worship was the amazing feeling I got when I sang at my piano, or the awe-inspired prayer I'd whisper on a mountaintop. These were the moments when the world around me melted away and I felt a connection with God unlike any other.
When I became a mother, diapers and laundry suddenly took the place of music and forests. Children filled my hours with activity, noise and demands, and I found that I had a harder time getting into a place of worship. I knew I needed it more than ever, but I didn't have the time and space like I used to.
So I tried to find ways to incorporate worship into my daily tasks. I read books that taught how washing dishes can be a form of worship, meditating on the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." But something was still lacking, no matter how many dishes I washed! Somehow, my heart resonated best with God's heart through music and nature.
Then I tried to incorporate my children into my worship time. Could I bring my kids camping or hiking? There were regional parks nearby, but nothing within an hour. And with young children, it would be difficult to keep an eye on them or work around their nap schedules.
Well, how about music? A minute after I'd sit down at the piano, almost always a child would call for my help. Or I would hear little fingers pressing (or pounding) on the piano keys. Or worse yet, a child would insist "It's my turn now" while pushing my hands away from the piano.
I admit that I made excuses. My pride told me that the piano wasn't worth playing if I couldn't play it properly; the outdoors weren't the "real" outdoors if I couldn't get away from the cities and towns. Soon, it became easy to simply go through the motions of housework day after day. As long as the household ran smoothly, what more did I need? I fell into bed every night, feeling accomplished because I was able to check things off my list. But the joy, the reason for my actions, was not there. My soul needed nourishment, but what I was feeding it were imbalanced meals. God designed me specifically to worship Him through nature and music, and I was ignoring that part of me.
My malnourishment eventually caught up with me. I became a tired, grumpy, frustrated mother of three. At the time, my family attended a small church, so often I was the sole nursery volunteer. Because I couldn't worship in song even on Sundays, I started to be resentful of everyone, especially my children. It took a few years for me to realize the root of the problem: I was spiritually hungry. I had been feeding on crumbs for too long.
Which brought me back to my original question, What is worship?
"I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3). Jesus, a lover of children, pointed me to the inspiration right that had been right underfoot all along! I needed to look to my children, not away. They had something to teach me about worship.
My son runs to show me a bug. My daughter plays a few notes on the piano, and cries out, "Listen to my song!" And a meal I would call simple, my children would call a feast. Their awe and wonder over the little things reminded me that I was lacking an essential element of worship: humility. The focus should not be on me, but on God. He wants me to worship him even if my song is not perfect, and even if I can only go into the backyard to admire the dandelions on the lawn.
I have also learned that although worship is not exclusive to music or nature, I don't need to ignore the part of me that enjoys those things. By embracing the mothering role God gave me and also embracing the person God designed me to be, I am worshipping him because I am devoting my entire being to his glory.
So, I ask myself again, What is worship? Worship is giving highest worth to someone or something. It is not a matter of what one does, but how and why one does it. The most eloquent prayer, the most beautiful song, the dishes even—none of it would be worship if done with the wrong heart. But every second I breathe can be worship, if the purpose of everything I do is to give God great value.
Now my favorite part of motherhood is worshipping with my children. When I see a beautiful sunset or flower in bloom, I call a child over to admire God's handiwork. When a child joins me at the piano, I start singing a worship song. I love eavesdropping on my kids as they sing hymns in the midst of play, or hearing my child call, "Mama, come and see this! The sky's on fire!" I am teaching my children to give God the worth he deserves, and they in turn are teaching me to become like a child again.
Rita Baird is a full-time wife and mother of five and part-time freelance writer and piano teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more of her writing on her blog LifeAsGodIntended.