Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
-Psalm 149:3 (ESV)
In my favorite ministry book, Contemplative Youth Ministry, Mark Yaconelli shares that among his favorite questions to ask parents is at what age they stopped dancing. We have a rather straight-laced western culture. Dancing, singing, general expressions of joy are reserved to specific occasions or for professionals. People reserve their praise and exuberance for worship, weddings, and sporting events. It's as if enthusiasm of the spirit is a sign of immaturity. If you can't do it with skill, you leave it to young people or professionals.
This was not so in the cultural context of those in scripture or for most of the world today. In most cultures, it is not only accepted, but expected and encouraged. People sing for joy, and not just in church or in groups or sporting events. They don't schedule a solo. They sing at the news of the birth of a new baby or their pastor bursts forth into song mid-sermon. They dance in celebration of good news. No one takes the time to evaluate how good or bad it is because it's not a performance. It's an expression of joy and life and articulates what the soul knows and words cannot express alone.
And I think this is why there was so much joy in the room Sunday night at the talent show. There was singing, there was dancing, there was costume wearing, and there was spontaneity. Although all of the acts had signed up to perform, it was clear that caution and reservation had largely been thrown to the wind, and so had any spirit of critique or criticism. The line between stage and crowd was blurred. The joy of participants and observers melted in laughter. And I watched as children and adults alike, on stage and on the floor danced as if no one was watching but the Lord.
And if I could have glimpsed God among us, wiping chili from the sides of his mouth and a few stray saltine crumbs in his beard, I think he would have been grinning ear to ear like all of us.
Prayer for Today
Lord, fill us with your Spirit. Remind us that dancing, song, music, laughter, and art are different dialects of the same language of our soul that expresses the truth of the gifts you give us. Help us to share our gifts with others generously and to encourage those brave enough to share theirs with us. Amen.