I grew up in a liturgical Protestant church. An order of service was strictly followed, say this, sing that, stand up and sit down, stand again, leave and find coffee in styrofoam cups. When I was a kid and visited a Catholic church I was blown away by mass. More things to say and even more movement and there was kneeling. In between the standing up and sitting down there would be a crouching down, with knees on red velvet kneelers that creaked beneath the weight of those who crouched down. I had never seen kneeling and when I asked about it back at my church the explanation was, "We don't need to do that anymore." As if we had sort of graduated out that sort of worship and as if it was beneath us.
In the past 10 years or so, I've come to know more about kneeling. There have been a few times when that's all I could do. I could no longer stand and praise or stand and ask for my needs or sit and be thankful. There have been some times when all I could do was be on my knees and either cry with joy or cry with despair. One thing I've learned is: kneeling hurts.
About 20 years ago, I had a couple of knee surgeries and with one, part of my patellar tendon was removed and bone was taken away from my tibia. This makes for a very uneven surface below my right knee which makes crawling on the floor after kids or whatever rolled under the couch very painful. I have a hard time kneeling and being on that knee for any length of time. Recently, however, I have found kneeling to be the only proper response or way to approach the Lord. At one point a few weeks ago, I found myself crouched down in a gravel driveway. Seeking guidance and making requests that seemed too much to ask. Thanking God for being altogether lovely and a better God than I deserved. In that driveway the pain of every little stone was imprinted into my knees. There were no red velvet cushions between me and the realities of the world. As minutes went by every pebble and bit of grass left an imprint and after my time alone with the Lord I found it difficult to stand.
After a quick search through a Bible database I only came up with the word, "kneel" about six times. A few times kneeling is mentioned as someone approaches Jesus to make a request - a mother requesting healing for a child or a leper requesting healing from a disease. Sometimes "kneeling" is mentioned in regard to those who mocked Jesus as he hung on the cross. I wonder if some of our kneeling could be seen as a mockery or a manipulation.
I changed my search to "knees" which yielded more results and most of them in the Old Testament. Many of the references said, "fell to his knees" or "bowed at the knees". In these circumstances, there is true surrender to the Lord or amazement and thanksgiving. In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon dedicates the temple. "Then he knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart..."
It's funny there were more references to kneeling and falling on one's knees in the Old Testament. It's almost as if the explanation to me as a teen dates back to Bible times. "Oh that's Old Testament, we don't do that anymore." When in reality, if anything should bring you to your knees it would be the stuff of the New Testament! The redemption, the grace, the love and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus! But kneeling hurts.
Kneeling requires not only the bending of the knee but the bending of our will. Giving up the right to stand or giving up the right to be right. When we kneel we pass up the opportunity to have our say or the last word and I don't know about you but that's about the hardest thing I know (or many times don't know) how to do.
My imprinted knees the other day remind me that surrender is painful but leaves an impression on our hearts and on the heart of God. God was faithful to Jesus to bring Him through the ultimate surrender and raise Him up and out of the blackness of the Earth. That same God is faithful and just do the same for us - whether we find ourselves choosing to bend or falling from weakness.