I can hear my son dancing in his carseat as I drive the minivan around town.
He dances with a particular sense of abandon, throwing his whole body into his head-banging, side to side, forward and back. He snaps his elbows out and pulls his hands to his chest and then kicks his feet.
When he breaks into dancing at home, he does a combination of skipping/leaping/running in circles that is breathlessly exciting.
He is into it.
I know he’s dancing wildly back there in the minivan (as wildly as one can dance when strapped into a 5-point harness car seat), so I pull down my rear-view mirror for a moment to see what he’s doing.
He immediately freezes in mid-boogie and looks away trying not to catch my gaze.
All of that joyful movement stops in an instant and gives way to bashful embarrassment.
My son is a secret dancer.
Even though I never criticize him for it, he has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I tell him: “It’s okay to dance.”
I wonder if we also are secret-dancers, secret-worshipers, holding back, hiding away, not wanting to look too wild or too ‘into it.’
Like Nicodemus, maybe we clothe our time with Jesus in darkness and privacy.
Even among other Christians, we might pull back. Don’t get too serious. Don’t worship too passionately. Don’t change your priorities too much. Don’t talk about God too often. Don’t let the Bible actually change you.
Jesus has a way, though, of busting through all of the layers of propriety and face-saving, people-pleasing, status-quo-following.
No matter how hard we may try at times to stuff our faith into acceptable packages of behavior, God can stir us to abandon.
In Luke 7, Jesus watched as a widow followed the casket of her only son while wailing with sorrow. Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.
The son sat up and started talking.
We’re told that “they were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:16-17 NIV).
The Message describes the scene:
They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).
God’s presence, always with us, should awaken the sense that we’re in a “place of holy mystery.” Yes, God is at work here and we are amazed!
We may begin ‘quietly worshipful,’ but then we can’t hold it in! We praise God! We are ‘noisily grateful!” We tell everyone what Jesus has done.
Just like these worshipers, we shout: “Praise God, He is at work among us! Praise God, I’ve seen His hand and He’s real, our God is real!! Praise God, He has not abandoned us, but He is looking after the needs of His people!!”
We all have these moments when we can choose to dance and sing about all that God has done or remain hidden in the shadows as night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.
This was Nicodemus’s choice. He came in the darkness to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.
But later, after Jesus died, it wasn’t the disciples or the women at the cross who arranged for his burial.
Instead, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38).
And who was with him? None other than Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of lotions and spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Together, they wrapped their Savior with linen and placed him in a garden tomb (John 19:38-42).
Two secret worshipers, frightened of others’ opinions, ashamed to go public with their faith, now honored Jesus with reverent awe and unhidden love.
Suddenly, religious position, public opinion, and power didn’t matter very much.
Jesus had abandoned all for them, so they worshiped with abandon.
Jesus abandoned everything for us also, so we can also worship with abandon!
God is with us! Jesus is risen! He is real! He is at work among us!