Dancing in Secret

I walked into the playroom quickly this morning, mom on a mission, toys in hand headed for the baskets to put them away, but then I stopped abruptly.

I had caught my toddler dancing.  She was boogieing left and right, lifting legs and arms and grinning.

As soon she saw me, she froze in mid-boogie and dropped her head in bashful embarrassment.

My girl is a secret dancer and a private singer.  In the car, sometimes she forgets we’re there and accidentally starts singing along with her songs, bouncing her head and kicking her legs in time to the music.

But then I watch her for one second too long in my rear-view mirror and she notices that I’m watching and stops.

I’m never critical of her.  It brings me great joy to see her sing and dance with a happy heart.  Still, she has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I whisper, “It’s okay to dance.  It’s beautiful to hear you sing.”

Some of us are secret worshipers, too.   Like Nicodemus, we meet with Jesus in darkness and in privacy, afraid of what others might say or do if they knew we were pursuing Christ.

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 repression. 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 performed one of those miracles that amazed people so much they couldn’t just stand around in quiet interest or retreat to places of private praise to avoid shame.

A widow walked behind a funeral procession, following the men lifting high the casket of her only son.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son got up out of that coffin 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).

I love how 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).

When was the last time you saw God active in your life and were filled with awe and holy fear?

His God-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 remove our sandals like Moses, in reverence that this is Holy Ground, made holy because God is here.

But then, overcome by awe, the people “praised God” and “noisily grateful,” they told everyone what Jesus had done.

They didn’t stay silent and keep the good news to themselves. They didn’t nod their heads in modest approval, but refrain from emotion and exuberance.

No, they shouted: 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!!

This was their message as they traveled through the country.

This is our message, too.
He saved us.  He is saving us.
He redeemed us.  He is rescuing us.

He is with us.  He has not abandoned us!

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, night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

Nicodemus had this choice, too.  He had come in the shadows of  night to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But when Jesus died and his disciples had scattered, it wasn’t the faithful women who remained at the cross that arranged for burial.

Instead, A man named 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 people, 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.

Scripture doesn’t tell us how Nicodemus and Joseph reacted when days later they learned that the grave clothes they had wrapped around Jesus’ body were folded in an empty tomb.

I bet they told everybody what God had donehow they knew for sure He was dead.  Hadn’t they wrapped his body?  Hadn’t they touched lifeless skin and moved a corpse into a grave?

Jesus had risen indeed!

I bet they danced and sang loud and didn’t care any longer who was watching.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.


The Sound of Silence

When I was pregnant with my very first daughter, my husband and I prayed the normal prayers of soon-to-be parents.  We asked God for her health, her character, her faith, and her future.

I threw in a prayer asking that she be a good eater and sleeper. The Bible says we can ask, right?

Then we bowed our heads together and prayed something truly bold. We asked that God would entrust us with a child who had something different than us—a talent, passion or personality trait that set her apart from her mom and dad.

After that prayer, we thought we’d give birth to an athletic superstar. I imagined soccer practices and track meets far into my future life as a mom.

God, however, rarely fits into the boxes we create for Him.

As she grew older, we realized that she was no sports prodigy.  Yet we’ve discovered many ways that she’s different from us—how she’s such a people person and how she spends hours on art projects and how she loves to be fancy.

Still, there’s one way God answered our prayer that I absolutely can’t miss.

God gave my daughter the heart of a dancer.

We don’t understand this.  I never in a million years expected to be a ballet mom.

My husband and I didn’t even slow dance at our own wedding, not because of some super-spiritual anti-dance philosophy.  It’s because we . . . . can’t. . . . dance.  At all.

Victoria, however, puts on a ballet performance at outdoor concerts along the beach and to the soundtrack of every movie we watch in our home.

She also dances at church.

That, my friends, is the rub.  The first time she pointed her toe and began stepping out of her pew to dance to the worship music at church, my palms grew sweaty with nervousness, which is kind of a problem when you’re the church pianist.

I know what Scripture says.

Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!  Psalm 149:3

 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!  Psalm 150:4

Still, while I agree that dancing is part of the Biblical description of worship, I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about my daughter being the dancer.

After all, this isn’t just a gentle swaying to the music.  She throws her head and her arms back and swirls, twirls, and pirouettes.  It’s total abandon and absolute passion.  She’s not ashamed or afraid to dance for God.

When we arrived home after her first praise dancing session, I chatted with her about it.  I hinted that it might be better to stand still and try to sing the songs, just like everybody else.

She stared at me for a moment.  Then she announced:

“The Bible says we should dance for God.
I’m dancing to make Him happy and Jesus likes it.
I think it makes Him smile when I dance.”

Alrighty then!

After being put in my place and given a Bible lesson by my five-year-old daughter, I really didn’t have anything else to say.

Most of the time, after all, silence is the only appropriate response to unmistakable truth.

This is difficult for me because I’m an excuse maker and a justifier.  If you tell me I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll give you 20 reasons why it was necessary.  I feel the need to explain myself all the time.

It’s the people-pleaser in me, hoping to convince others through my combative defensiveness that I was right, even when I was wrong.  Because I don’t want to be wrong, not ever.  I don’t want to mess up, not at any time.

Life would be so much easier for me if I was just perfect.

When God speaks truth to us, our response shouldn’t be excuses and explanations.  It should be the humble bowing of the head and the submissive silence of repentance.  Because we’re not perfect, not any of us.

Even the Pharisees knew that arguing with Jesus was impossible.  When He challenged them on issues of healing, the Sabbath, resurrection, and faith, “they were silent” (Mark 3:4, Luke 14:4).

Later on in the early church, Peter presented his case in favor of Gentile believers to the Jerusalem church elders.  When he finished reminding them of Scripture, his own personal testimony, and the evidence of faith they’d seen as Christianity spread, “they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18, ESV).

Then there’s Job.  For forty chapters, Job and his friends had debated about God, discussed, dialogued, and orated.  They had yapped and yapped.

Then God showed up.  He finally decided to speak up for Himself.  Job “answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5, ESV). 

The truth stings sometimes, I know it.  It requires that we admit mistakes and demands we take the often difficult steps to change.

But He’s a gracious and merciful God, who only speaks truth to us because He loves us.  So, instead of arguing with Him, let’s choose to place our hands over our mouths and bow our heads in silent obedience. Like Samuel, we say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King