A Surprised by Worship story

Yesterday Melanie mentioned that our buddy Travis Cottrell has written a brand new book (available now!) called Surprised By Worship: Discovering The Presence of God Where You Least Expect It. It’s such an insightful, heartfelt testimony of finding God in unexpected places; it’s one of those books that you’ll underline and re-read over and over again.
For the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about times in my life when I’ve been surprised by worship, and one instance in particular popped in my mind right about the time I started writing this post. Funny how that works, huh?
When I was about 22, I was in what should have been my last semester of grad school (as it turned out, it wasn’t, but that’s another story for another day) and was pretty much an emotional and spiritual train wreck. I’d grown up in the church, accepted Christ as a young teenager, and then proceeded to ride the roller coaster of immature faith all the way to college. The spiritual struggles really kicked in my senior year at State, and the struggling continued – oh, and how – in grad school. Even though I was labeled as sort of a happy-go-lucky girl by my English department buddies, I was actually anything but. I was miserable. MISERABLE. In a hundred different ways and for a hundred different reasons.
I still believed in God. But I wasn’t exactly following Him. And as my bloggy friend Kate Andre once wrote, “It doesn’t take long living apart from the life-giving source of relationship with God to become a person you can’t even recognize.” I relate to those words more than y’all will ever know.
At that particular time I was driving a car that was about seventy-four kinds of unreliable, so one Friday afternoon I drove to my hometown to put my car in the shop. Since it wasn’t fixed by the time I went back to school on Sunday, my daddy let me borrow his car for the return trip. It was a cream Crown Victoria, and it was basically a land yacht. Exactly what every 22 year-old girl fancies as her dream car.
I was about 15 miles into my trip to Starkville when I started thumbing through my daddy’s collection of cassette tapes (remember: this was the early 90s, so in-car CD players were still verrrry fancy), and I picked up a Greatest Hits by the Maranatha Singers. I put it in the cassette player and started to listen, sort of half-heartedly singing along with words that I knew in my head but hadn’t felt in my heart for a couple of years.
Eventually a song called “Glorify Your Name” started to play, and after singing just a couple of words, the spiritual dam gave way and I started to cry. Actually, I started to bawl. I cried so hard that I thought maybe it would be better if I pulled off the road; I just couldn’t figure out where all those tears were coming from. After all, I thought I’d sufficiently distanced myself from God. But somewhere between Kemper County and Oktibbeha County, He reminded me that even though “my flesh and my heart may fail…God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
In all my brokenness I worshipped Him that day. He showed me His faithfulness when I least expected it.
I would love to tell you that life from that point on was one big praise and worship chorus. But it wasn’t. In fact, the train wreck continued to roll along for about three more years (though I did manage to finish grad school, believe it or not). But in the moments when the enemy reminds me of how far I fell, of how much I messed up, of how callously I disregarded the One who took on all my sin and died for me, I can think back on that afternoon in Daddy’s Crown Victoria and know that God never forgot me. He knew me. He loved me. He never quit pursuing me.
And you know what?
I pray that I’ll never get over it.


  1. Carol says

    That was a very touching testimony I just want to thank you lifeway all access that you all have been a big encouragement in my life. I come on here to read and always find encouragement so thank you all.
    Blessing to you all and thanks for all you do

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