When I was a child going to church, I did what I was asked to do: bowed my head and folded my hands during prayer, sang the words to the songs, and did the motions taught to us. I was quiet during the lesson, and answered questions only when asked directly. Other than that, I did not do anything "extra" when singing to God. I don't even know if I recognized it as praising Him. It was just something we did during "church".
When I was in college, I started attending a interdenominational bible study. I had not been a regular attender of any church for a very long time. We did not usually sing songs together, but just studied the Word thoroughly. We sometimes prayed in small groups, but I most remember being eager to study the bible with everyone. We were very academic, breaking every part of the bit of Scripture we were studying. Sometimes we had a very diverse crowd who came to check out what we were doing. People from all different beliefs and backgrounds came to our group. No one really had to bring a Bible because the leaders provided a copy of the passage for each of us. We highlighted and marked up our papers as much as we wanted. This was all student-led, mainly in someone's dorm room, and I was pretty impressed by my peers who facilitated and seemed to listen to everyone who spoke. I don't remember any of the leaders ever turning anyone away, both from the bible study and outside of the group time.
I sporadically attended church with my family when I was home on the weekends, but no one could count on me being in a house of worship regularly. I was never a member of any Christian organization on campus, but I attended the weekly bible study and was friendly with the other people who also attended. I did not hang out much with the "Jesus freaks" crowd outside of study, though, unless I had something else in common with them, like a class or another club. I kept Jesus with me, but mostly in my pocket, not on my sleeve for everyone to see. My sisterhood, WRW. still labeled me as a Christian because they knew where I was every Tuesday night at 9:00.
When I graduated from my university, I moved back in with my parents for about seven months. I had just begun my career as a high school teacher and found a job at my alma mater. They lived less than four miles away from the school, and I drove an old, unreliable car. Perfect place to live for a little while, especially because meals were still included! My mom had started attending the same church that we grew up in, and I started going with her every Sunday. Soon, I found myself volunteering in Children's Ministry, first as an assistant to my mom, but I eventually took the big step to being a lead teacher.
For a little while, I would be there feeling nostalgic. I could not reminisce about the classrooms and facilities because they had not yet been built when I had attended as a young girl, but I could reminisce about some of the songs that were still being sung, and the lessons still being taught. I learned so much more from having to teach the Bible, memorizing verses with the kids and learning the songs and motions that we had to sing every service. Yet, I still was not fully worshiping. When I sat in "big church", I was just as reserved as many others, clapping along when I was supposed to, but not immersing myself in what I was doing.
Eventually, I started volunteering with the high school youth group. There were major changes during that time in my life, but I felt I could take that on along with everything else. Little did I know being a part of that Tuesday night youth group would mean so much to me and my walk with Jesus. There was a live band at youth group, and we were all expected to worship along with the students. I usually sat in one of the last rows of chairs in the gym/sanctuary, and could observe most of the students. Some were new to the group and just stood up when they were told to, and others were fully immersed in the worship time. Teenagers were singing, clapping, and raising their hands high above their heads. I had never done that in church before!
It took me a few more years before I felt I could raise my arms during worship and not feel self-conscience about it. I used to think: Are my fingernails clean?; Do I have something embarrassing under my arms?; Are the people around me going to feel awkward? Now, if the Spirit leads me, then I cannot deny Him. I love the Lord and He loves me. I will let God know that He has saved me, that I love Him, and that I am beyond blessed because of Him. My joy is beyond what others may think of me. I may not be King David, but I look often to his example when it comes to worship. He wrote several of the Psalms, but also, in his own time he danced before the Lord. His wife, Michal, may have thought it undignified for a king to be dancing in front of his servants, but he did not. He was not ashamed to be praising his God, and neither am I.
2 Samuel 6:13-15
13 And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. 14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
So, do you lift your hands in church? Do you raise your hands in praise to the Holy One? If you worship next to me, I will not scoff at you nor be offended. You may just be encouraging others to let them know that it is okay to love God. It is okay to be a "Jesus freak". Your friends or family members may think it strange or weird at first, but what they think of how you worship the Lord is not relevant. Pleasing God with our worship should be our goal.