I like to think of myself as a fully engaged worshipper.

I grew up in Brazil and people from those parts know how to express their feelings. In fact, I am one of nine children and I remember the spirited conversations we had around our dinner table growing up.

A friend from the U.S. came to spend a few days with me and my family once. After the first day he was visibly disturbed. He thought we were fighting during dinner. He was wrong. We were just having a normal “debate” at the Trindade table. We loved trying to defend our ideas and reducing others’ ideas to naught. But in the end, we laughed, hugged, and shared a fabulous meal together, thanks to my Mom, who was never called in to referee, though she had the power to stop the session with just one of her, “Now, that’s enough” comments.

I learned to hold my own in a verbal sparring while munching on my Mom’s famous fried fish. Our dinner table talks sowed the seeds of confidence in my ability to state a thesis, withstand a barrage of arguments, and stand tall at the end. I experienced many victories and defeats around that table, in between snacks of tapioca and sweets of all sorts.

So I didn’t think I would ever have problems showing God my affections and feelings in worship, but over time, as I moved and got acquainted with all things U.S., I noticed that I had become more subdued during the worship time in church. There were times when I wanted to raise my hand but as I looked around me I quenched that desire. “What are they going to think of me?” I thought, “Some kind of a charismatic Christian?” The fear of being labeled by that word “charismatic” killed all spontaneity in worship.

When I noticed what I had become – a stiff, swift, self-sanitized Sunday servant – I decided to make a change. So I started closing my eyes and imagining that I was alone in the presence of God. At times I had feelings of shame, fear, exhilaration, awe, joy, and reverence in the presence of the Holy One. And I wanted to express that before my wonderful Heavenly Father. Worship in church was never as meaningful as when I began to do that. And it continues to be thus today.

Now, I have to say I have not gone all the way yet. At times I feel the urge to go up to the front and simply kneel there before the “altar.” But, alas, we have no altars in our Protestant churches and no kneeling benches either (don’t you wish we had some of those sometimes?). So I stop myself and kneel in my heart. I don’t want people to think I am “super spiritual.” I don’t want them to see me as the Pharisees who displayed the outward signs of fasting only to receive praise from men.

But some day I just might forget all these objections and simply rush to the “altar” and prostrate myself before this Holy God I love and revere so much. If you happen to see me do it, please don’t call me a “Brazil nut. “Christian hedonist” will be bad enough.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade