Tuesday, 5 September 2017

An INTJ's Guide to Praise and Worship

As an INTJ who grew up in the Charismatic Renewal, I have faced and battled with many of the natural clashes of this personality with a very demonstrative and uninhibited style of prayer. My theory is that 'T' (thinking) type personalities gravitate more towards more structured, less demonstrative and intellectual forms of prayer like Adoration, the Rosary, Lectio Divina (reflect and share about bible passages.. yes, please!), etc, and 'F' (feeling) type personalities gravitate towards more ‘touchy-feely’ forms of prayer- praise and worship, raising hands, holding hands at the Our Father, any kind of feel good music, etc. But I think 'T's sometimes need to learn how to let go of control a little, and 'F's need to build their faith on a more solid rock than their emotions that can easily be swayed. Anyway all that is to bring you back to how I as an INTJ have survived (and sometimes thrived) in what seems like an odd style of prayer. So here I am to answer your INTJ questions that deafeningly and irresistibly pop up just as you are right in the middle of a hymn at a prayer meeting.

INTJ: Wait.. what exactly does it mean to 'GIVE God glory and honour, magnify him' etc etc? How on earth can I 'lift God up' if He is already pretty much the most powerful being that exists? I exalt Him? What?

INTJ Guru: Great question! You CAN'T actually make God bigger than He already is. Even though it sounds like that it what you are saying, that's not actually what the words are pointing to. What you ARE called to do, is look at Him, acknowledge Who He is, in all His goodness and beauty, and allow Him to be magnified in your own soul, and thus in the world. It’s like opening the windows, and letting the beauty and awesomeness of a gorgeous sunshiny day into your home. It was there all along, it just wasn’t in your home yet.

INTJ: But what exactly is the point of all this worshipping? Wouldn’t it be better to just go out and do some good deeds? I know- I’m ‘made to worship God’. But isn’t that a little narcissistic on God’s part?

INTJ Guru: If God is really Love, and love is all about willing the good of the other, then there has to be a better explanation for God’s call for us to worship Him. God is always about doing what’s good for US. So how on earth can praise or worship be good for us? It’s simple- praise and worship frees us from our OWN narcissistic navel-gazing, from being imprisoned in the cell of our own ego, and frees us to see ourselves and God as we REALLY are. It’s a chance to get some perspective. Like dragging your kids away from their social media, and inviting them to take a look at the star-filled night sky, or the view from the top of a mountain. God knows how shallow and self-obsessed we are, and He says, “Look at Me, get a glimpse of the universe at it really is, and you will know who you really are.”

INTJ: That’s great, but a lot of the time I’m expected to sing songs and speak praises when I feel nothing at all. Why speak words of love when I feel no love? It reeks of hypocrisy.

INTJ Guru: Ah ha! You of all people, O INTJ should know that love is not a feeling but a choice. Praise is an act, not a feeling. Worship is a choice to give oneself regardless of what one is feeling in the moment. As C.S. Lewis said, “Faith is the art of holding on to the things your reason has accepted in spite of your changing moods.”And that right there is the secret to entering into true praise and worship.

INTJ: Okay, okay. But seriously, some of the songs the PnW leader chooses are truly cringe-worthy. They lack any value, doctrinal or aesthetic. Some seem childish and shallow. Every fibre in me screams “No! I can’t do this!”

INTJ Guru: O INTJ, I truly sympathize. Our minds and hearts and will are not disconnected. One affects the other. I have a couple of suggestions. One is, you could gently suggest a couple of solid and truly reverent and holy worship songs to your music leader. Share how they bless you and draw you to a more meaningful act of surrender.

However, you are still most likely going to be stuck in situations where you can’t do anything about it. In those cases, dear INTJ, as ridiculous as it may seem to other personality types, THAT is the cross God is asking you to embrace. You can offer to Him even your cringes, and choose to believe that nothing offered to God is wasted. Most likely, He is doing one of those cool-but-painful sanctifying things that He does. Although, if it's heretical, you're allowed to just not join in for that part of the song. But cheesy you can do.

INTJ: What about the whole hand raising expectation? Is there some guide to that? The deeper the emotion, the higher the arms? There seems to be an unspoken rule that at certain parts of certain songs everyone raises their arms. What about when the prayer leader demands that everyone raise their hands, or shout ‘Alleluia’, or clap, or some such thing?

INTJ Guru: I prefer to avoid the kind of prayer meetings or groups that are too directional about such things. Maybe it works for some people. But not you and me, O INTJ. When in doubt, remember that you are free. You don’t HAVE to do what everybody is doing. The safest thing is to close your eyes, and just do what you feel God is asking you to do in the moment. Raising your arms can help express an inner act of openness or surrender. Again, our body, mind and spirit are connected. So don’t dismiss outward forms of prayer.

INTJ: What about the whole ‘free praise’ thing? My eyes are semi-shut, and I mumble along while I hear people say things like ‘Mighty God! Holy One! King of Kings and Lord of Lords! All glory belongs to You! You are the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End!’What even?!!! Do they memorize a list of acceptable things to say? Those words and phrases feel so meaningless to me. Do I go on a bathroom break during these times, or hope that no one can hear clearly that my free praise goes something like ‘God, Ihavenoideawhattosaysopleasegetmethroughthis…’?

INTJ Guru: It might be more helpful to pick a few phrases that you DO identify with, ways that YOU have experienced God, and say those aloud instead. As you grow and experience God in new ways, you can add more ways to the list. For example, ‘You are beautiful, and all that is beautiful comes from Your heart. You are slow to anger and full of mercy. Your love is so precious to me. How good and patient You are. I love you so much. I praise You. I trust You. I believe in You. You are more than enough for me.’ It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated or what anyone else is saying. You don’t have to shout. But again, speaking those words aloud is a way of internalizing and solidifying the truth that your mind has accepted. It’s also a way to let go of the control and image of control we cling to so tightly. Yes indeed, O INTJ, as a man or woman of faith, you do indeed have to be willing to look and sound just a little stupid.

INTJ: You are throwing the word ‘worship’ around a little too easily. I’m Catholic. Isn’t Mass the best and truest form of worship? In fact, isn’t Jesus the only one who can offer acceptable worship to the Father?

INTJ Guru: Welcome to the Catholic Church, my friend, the Church of ‘Both.., and.’ Worship can be offered both inside and outside of the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the ‘culmination of the men offer to Christ and through Him to the Father in the Holy Spirit’. (CCC 1325) That means we can praise Him, give ourselves to Him in spirit and in truth, with song and vocal praise, in tongues and with arms raised, and all of that is brought to its culmination in the Eucharist, when Jesus accepts what we offer, joins it to His sacrifice on the Cross and offers it to the Father. The only problem would be if we replaced the Mass with what’s commonly known as ‘praise and worship’, or if we just went to Mass as an obligation and considered prayer meetings to be our only true worship. That would be misguided and counter-productive.

INTJ: Thanks, INTJ Guru. One more- How does one ‘climb this mountain with one’s hands wide open’? I have climbed mountains, and I need my hands to grab at rocks and bushes and haul myself up. Climbing a mountain with my hands wide open? (Also, they mean arms, right?) Sounds like a physical impossibility to me. And don’t tell me to ‘lean not on my own understanding’.

INTJ Guru: There are two possibilities. One is- yes, it’s impossible… but not for God. So the very seeming impossibility and helplessness is what you are called to reflect on. Not an adequate answer you say? Then do what I do- picture yourself climbing a mountain, arms stretched out, and God grabbing your hand, and guiding you up. I have had some pleasant experiences of chivalrous men helping me climb mountains, and it usually involved some amount of hand-holding. Mountain climbing can be sweaty, exhausting, thirsty, and scary work. You can reach halfway up and then your shaky legs collapse and you decide you want to die. Now picture our big, awesome God grabbing you by the hand and hauling you up, and you pretty much have a good picture of my faith life.

INTJ: Okay, so visuals and analogies help. One last question. I don't HAVE to sing ‘they will dance for joy like we are dancing now’ if no one is actually dancing, right?

INTJ Guru: No, you don’t. You can compromise by humming along. You could sway and shift feet and sing it, but then you kind of hope that when the world has seen the light, they would be dancing slightly more energetically and dramatically and a lot less awkwardly. So maybe just don’t.

Now go forth and worship!

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