“I Throw My Hands Up In The Air Sometimes…”

If you’re new here, hi! My name is Dana, and I’m the Service Programming Director at Hoboken Grace. I oversee our band and production teams, and you’ll often find me leading worship on Sundays. I’ve been in this role for 9 years and serving in various capacities for years before that.

I remember early in my time at Hoboken Grace, I was serving in the band as a vocalist, while working multiple jobs in the city. I should take a moment to explain that this looked totally different than what you see now at Hoboken Grace. We had music stands, our mics had obnoxious cables attached that I tripped over, there were no fancy lights or curtains on the stage, and the lyrics were just projected onto the back wall of the stage with a projector that sat on a table on the stage. It was something! But it got the job done.

At the time, Pastor Chris decided to take our leaders to a conference in California called Catalyst. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I was invited. I wasn’t totally sure why they felt I should go, I was just a singer. 

At the conference, the music was amazing. I mean, it opened with a beatboxing cellist, who you may be familiar with from the now famous Pentatonix. We were led in worship by some absolute legends, including Joel Houston, Israel Houghton and Darlene Zschech. At the time I had a faint idea who these people were, but was not super familiar with this kind of worship experience. I had had some similar experiences at college but nothing at this level of excellence or production value.

Night one, Joel was leading us through the song With Everything. Thousands of people were singing their heart out to God, and raising their hands. I remember having no problem singing loud with everyone, but for some reason I could not find the courage to lift my hands.

Why was that so ridiculously intimidating?

Let’s unpack this for a minute, and maybe this will resonate with you.

  1. I was making it about everyone BUT God. In that moment I was feeling tension with raising my hands because I wasn’t totally sure why I wanted to raise them. I hadn’t worshiped physically like this before so this was new. I could feel a pull in the pit of my stomach to just do it. And yet I couldn’t. I was uncomfortable because I hadn’t ventured there with God before and was more worried about what other people would think of me raising my hands than I was about what God would think about it.
  2. I was letting the enemy mess with my head. There’s nothing the enemy would want more than for you to be in a room full of people worshipping his arch nemesis and for you to freeze. That would mean he’s winning. And in that moment in that room, for a minute, he was fighting hard to win. He was convincing me that what was more important was for me to stay comfortable and keep my hands folded together than it was for me to let go and worship Jesus. 1 Peter 5:8 says that the enemy, “…prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Isn’t it sad how the enemy can take such a small moment and make it so big in our heads? That small moment turned into an absolute battle for my mind and heart.

As the song went on (and it was a long one) something different started to happen. As I sat in the tension of whether to raise my hands, God began to just quietly soften my heart as I sang. With each refrain I felt more and more how very present God was with me, even in this small moment of internal struggle. And I felt how much He just wanted to spend this time WITH me. That closeness and gentleness slowly put me more and more at ease.

And then, in the darkness and loudness of that room of thousands of people, I raised my hands.

I mean, my arms were basically just bent with my hands barely at shoulder level, but they were up! Was I completely comfortable right away? No. I was totally muscling through and even hoping the song was over soon (and it wasn’t, that song is like really long when they do it live). But was I more truthfully worshipping Jesus the way He was nudging me to? Yes! I raised my hands to make it about HIM and not about me or anyone else.

If you see me on Sundays now you may question if I’m the same person I described in this story. My hands are up all the time. And that’s because it’s a constant reminder to me that He is in control, that He is faithful, that He is the Lord of my life in all things, and that HE is who we are singing to. Even when I don’t feel those things, raising my hands helps put God in an elevated place in my heart and life. It’s a trigger that tells the rest of me – my heart, soul and mind – that I am here to worship Him.

Next time you’re at church and you feel that nudge or that pull to do something outside your comfort zone in worship, take the leap! It can be clunky. It can be awkward. But eventually it will just be familiar, like coming home.

Not ready for that yet? I get it. Try spending time in worship on your own first. In the car. While making dinner. Maybe in the shower (I mean, the acoustics are great in there!). If you need a starting place, grab the Hoboken Grace Playlist, find a song you resonate with and start there. Just you and Jesus. Enjoy where He leads you.

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