One of my favorite stories of the Old Testament is the story of King David as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought into Jerusalem. The story appears in 2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-22 (and another perspective given 1 Chronicles 15:1-29 and 16:1-43). In this story, you see that King David was worshiping with great enthusiasm, dancing before the Lord with great abandon. And in dancing, he removed his kingly attire and danced in a state of partial undress. In fact, David defended his choice of honoring the Lord, telling his wife when she scolded him for humbling himself like that in dancing: “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:21-22, NIV).
To me, dancing before the Lord is one of the highest forms of worship. I have always admired people that could do it. But mostly what I have observed in church has been either people sort of hopping up and down in a kind of wild two-step, or the liturgical dancing where mostly women dress up in flowing gowns and use ballet-like moves. I have tried the first, and it has not really felt very worshipful (not that it is not worshipful for others, just that it didn’t feel like it was expressing anything deep from my heart to the Lord), and I hardly knew where to begin on the second. Mostly, I felt like not only did I have two left feet, but that my shoes were made of lead.
While I profess that I will do anything for the Lord, the truth is that I struggle with how others perceive me, and so I will often fail when there is a conflict between the two — when I will feel humiliated in my own eyes, as King David said. Can anybody relate to this? Do you feel a sense of shyness or maybe an embarrassment if you stand out? Have you felt like you couldn’t make yourself do what you thought you should do for God?
This is what I know: the Lord is very compassionate and understanding, yet I don’t want to use that as an excuse to not do what I believe I should be doing. I have always felt like I should keep trying to press through. So I found at least a middle-ground — steps that I could take that would lead me in the direction I wanted to go. One of the founding ladies in my church is gifted at sewing and made banners (or flags) that people could pick up and wave, and one of the elders would sometimes wave one, so I thought to myself that I could at least try to do that much — a stepping out in faith, and stepping out of my comfort zone. Also, I wanted to do something in worship that was not all “head” — all intellectual.
So I gave it a try. This was in 2009. At the time, I had a frozen shoulder from falling on the ice, so it must have looked pretty awful when I waved with my left arm that first year until I had surgery. It took me a while before I got the hang of it. I learned pretty quickly that if you make figure-eights, the flag material will generally not get tangled up on itself. But while I really tried not to hit anybody with the flag, I did bang the walls and the audio speakers a few times. And every two or three weeks that first year, the flag would slip out of my hand, and sometimes come down where I could catch it, and sometimes not! But it did feel like genuine worship to me. I was able to get my mind off of myself — off of caring if people were watching me or judging me — and I was able to focus on the fact that I was trying to honor the Lord in what I was doing.
With practice, I eventually got to where I could spin the flag — though it took me a couple of years to get there. And as I got freer with it, I also learned to move my legs around a bit (I took a few tai chi classes, so it helped in teaching me to move without actually learning liturgical dance). And I even figured out what to do with my other arm. So in a very real sense, I learned to dance before the Lord in a form of extravagant worship! But the greatest blessing of all was that during many of my flag-waving times, I began to see pictures of heaven, which I will write about that in my next post.
I wonder if there are things that you have wanted to do or that you think God wants you to do, and maybe you can’t do them yet? I wonder if there is a “first step” you could take, like flag waving was for me? I want to encourage you not to give up in fully following the Lord. Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you will always be stuck. Keep looking for that way forward! And don’t forget, the Lord loves it when you ask him for help in being bold (Acts 4:23-31), so don’t think you have to do this without his help!