I got the opportunity to play keyboard with a group of really talented musicians as the host band for a Catholic conference for middle schoolers this weekend in Amarillo, Texas. Since my family and I have been out of church for about nine months, I haven’t played much praise and worship, so when the leader of the group, Franky, asked me to play with them I was excited. I showed up Friday night for sound check and a brief rehearsal before heading off to the hotel with everyone, and I knew from that evening that I was going to really enjoy playing music with these guys. The next day we kicked the morning off with some energetic worship songs. I had a blast playing lead synth and watching the kids jump up and down singing the words that were projected onto the giant screen behind us. The familiar songs came back to me as I swiped through the chord charts on the iPad. To say the least, I had missed playing praise and worship like this and was thankful for the opportunity to play again. However, it wasn’t until the evening portion of the conference that I truly felt something unique, and it compelled me to share with you my experience.
One of the last activities at the conference was a time of meditation and reflection on God practiced in Catholicism called Adoration. Franky and I were asked to provide music to set the atmosphere for this holy hour of acknowledgement and reflection. As we sat on the stage and the conference leader prepared the room for Adoration, I felt a sense of great responsibility. This was more than playing piano softly for an hour; this was a time to meditate on the nature of God. This was sacred. As we began the first song, “How He Loves,” I knew this was going to be a special experience. I’ve played “How He Loves” more times than I would like to count, and I’ve always enjoyed playing it, but this particular moment was beyond enjoyment. A deep appreciation resonated within me as I mouthed the words of the song, and in that moment the words I had sung countless times before became real. I was overwhelmed by the poetry, by the concept of this Love that I can’t comprehend completely. I was overwhelmed attempting to acknowledge something, someone as vast and mysterious as God. As we continued playing, we strayed off of the traditional structure of the song and entered into a delicate improvisation of the melody over the chords. I let my fingers wander about the keys, contracting and expanding on this energy that was now very present. It was this way for the rest of the songs in that hour. Franky and I slipped into certain harmonies that chilled my body, we felt the direction of the music and followed each other without saying a word or looking at each other.
This was more than just an enjoyable musical experience.
In a very difficult way to describe, each note was an expression of my spirit, of my very being. The melodies and harmonies we created allowed me to worship in a way that transcended the boundaries of human language. It was absolutely liberating. There was this sincere and intimate focus on this omnipotent Being that created and continues to create the cosmos, the Universe. I felt terrified, and yet I felt adoration. I felt small and insignificant, and yet I felt deeply connected to this Being and to the Universe and I felt valued. A peace washed over me and swept away my worries and fears and insecurities. I didn’t want this peace to go away. In that moment I recognized that this was a glimpse into the kingdom of God. This was a very real thing that exists in the present, not some distant paradise to wait for until I am put in the ground. My experience during Adoration was a mere glance into the mysterious and divine peace that is the kingdom of God, and yet this mere glance overwhelmed me with deep joy. As we played the final note of the hour, there was a holy silence.
The energy in the room lingered for a while before it left quietly like a final breath.
As the conference leader continued the rest of the evening with the kids, Franky turned to me and said, “Wow. That was my favourite part of this entire day.” I couldn’t have agreed more. My most sincere hope is that the kids and sponsors sitting in that room, despite having a long and tiring day, were able to have a similar experience during Adoration. It was my first Adoration to be a part of, and though I am not Catholic, I certainly think there is value in acknowledging and meditating on the mysterious and powerful nature of God whether it comes from silent reflection or playing piano or gazing into the night sky. I’m thankful for my experience this weekend, and I pray that these glimpses into the kingdom of God not seem like random, fleeting moments in an otherwise dark and cold world, but instead that we would recognize the fact that the kingdom of God exists here in the present to be experienced in times like Adoration and also in the most unlikely of places. May we open our hearts and minds to the kingdom and may that divine peace spill into our lives and into the lives of the people around us.