“Dance, Shine” was the name of the Bate’s Dance Studio end of the year performance last weekend. It was truly amazing. I’ve seen dance before, but last Friday night dance challenged my thinking in new ways. Ways that make me want to live different. Better.
I’ll start with the biggest thing that stood out. There three types of dancers.
1. Those who know the steps and do them. They seem worried about falling out of step or making a mistake. Maybe just a little too aware of the audience watching them.
2. Those who feel the music. They move with the beat and rhythm and seem absolutely unconcerned with a huge theatre of watching eyes. These are the dancers that make me want to dance.
3. The third group, which the majority seem to be, are those who are in and out of the music, there are parts of the dance that they know and do and there are parts of the dance that they know so well that they let go and just embrace the dance for awhile.
I see this as analogous to our spiritual walks.
1. There are those who know the steps of Christianity: what words to use and not use, what behaviors to abstain from, they know words that sound like prayer and watching from the outside they are in step enough to be a part of the chorus. The effort is appreciated, but the dance of Christianity looks difficult and taxing.
2. Then there are those whose walk with Christ is like the dancer who feels the music. They flow with Scripture and prayer pours out naturally, they aren’t struggling to grow in grace, it’s a simple rhythm of their life and these are the Christians that make me want to dance.
3. Most of us are the third group, there are times and aspects of our Christian life that we feel the music and those times are the greatest times of our life, but we also find ourselves in a dance we don’t know that well and we’re much too aware of the eyes watching us. We want only to fit in and not screw up.
These ideas and many others blew my mind Friday night, but then we went back on Saturday night to watch the younger children perform. This added a new layer, because I realized none of these little children felt the music. They were funny, they were cute, they did a fantastic job, but they didn’t feel the music. I realized that it took people like Heidi teaching them over many years to get to them to the point that these older girls were at where they begin to feel the music. It’s real life discipleship.
This reminded me in a visual way how beautiful the fruit of discipleship can be. I feel encouraged to teach our children to feel the music; to not just know the steps of what it means to follow Christ, but to go after Him with joy and real knowledge, that there is grace in missteps. I am thankful for dance today and my prayer is that God would free me from fear of failure so that I might not not simply know the steps of Christianity but feel the music that is His grace and dance the dance of faith.
Other things I learned.
A. The opening number was an amazing Gospel Choir version of This Little Light of Me. It was awesome. Glorifying God in the arts doesn’t have to be cheesy or in a Christian venue, in fact I think it was better outside of a “Christian” venue.
B. There was a song (The Bridge by Cloverton) that included a real bridge . I wish you all could see this dance, may be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. The second night the first thing I did when we got the program was look to see if it would happen again. I was disappointed that it was not begin redone. The images of salvation and rescue challenged my mind to to try to understand it. It just seemed to have layers of meaning and I didn’t know that existed in dance.
C. I’ve always been surprised how the Church in history has at times looked at dance as evil. Footloose comes to mind. I went one semester to a Baptist college where in 1999 dance was still forbidden. Square Dance, Two Step, Swing Dance, Line Dance, all dance. Yet we see in Scripture dance spoken of in wonderful ways. Just like most things dance can be put into practice in shameful ways, but that should not result in the good gift of God being shamed outright.
In Psalm 30:11 we learn that God has turned the sadness of mourning into the the joy of dancing. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,”
In Psalm 149:3 their praise of God included dancing of some sort. “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”
When I did a search on dance the most surprising discovery was Luke 15:25. This is the well known story of the prodigal son. The son leaves home, wastes his inheritance on pleasure and finds himself eating with pigs. He eventually goes back to his father’s house and confessing his unworthiness to be included asks for a place among the servants. Instead the father welcomes him and throws a celebration at his return. We read in the following verse, “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.” There was dancing at the celebration of the returning child. There was dancing because there was joy, because the father showed grace the people danced. Except the jealous older brother who hated that grace was poured out on the younger brother. I think maybe we dance too little and I am a bit concerned that it might be because we don’t celebrate the grace of God enough. Let us feel the music and dance.