There are many ways to pray, worship, and praise God. One meaningful way for me to do all the above, is to dance. I am a trained dancer and have been dancing in churches, leading workshops, and presenting at women’s gatherings for over 15 years.
Because the revival of sacred dance in modern-day church service is a controversial topic, I have, in the past, been shy about putting it forward as a worship art. I wanted to respect feelings, and I honestly feared upsetting others. But in the beginning of one Lenten Season, I learned to answer the call no matter what my fears dictate.
The week before Lent began a few years ago, our church worship leader asked another dancer and me to offer a dance to the song, “At the Foot of the Cross” at the Ash Wednesday service. The song is about brokenness, laying down our guilt and burdens, and trading ashes in for beauty. Could there be more beautiful words to express repentance and acceptance of God’s love?
The week before the scheduled dance offering, we had challenges. It was hard to get rehearsals together. The previous year’s costumes were missing and needed replacement. And, I was having pain and swelling in one of my knees. In exasperation one evening, I told the worship leader it simply was not coming together and we would have to scrap the dance. He reluctantly agreed.
The night before Ash Wednesday, I was unable to sleep. I tossed and turned and finally decided to get up, read and pray. I asked God why I was awake. The message was very clear. We were to do the dance. Someone would be there that night in need of this message through movement. The next morning I called the worship leader and asked him to put the dance back in the order of service. He agreed.
At the appointed time in the service, we offered praise in dance to God and the gift to the parishioners that He had given and wanted shared with them. The piece typically brings many people to tears (including the dancers) as they experience this story in movement. After dancing, I returned to my seat and kept my heart focused on worship. “Okay, Lord, I trust you and ask your forgiveness for my reluctance to obey. Whatever you are going to do tonight, I thank you for it,” I prayed.
The dance was followed by Holy Communion. A teen-aged girl and an older woman went to the altar. The young lady fell face down and began to weep. Her companion held her and they wept together as they accepted the bread and wine. I did not know them. But my heart broke.
Leaving the sanctuary in silence after the service, I saw the two women in the back row. The young lady and I connected with our eyes. She mouthed the words, “Thank you.” Still sobbing, she laid her head on her companion’s shoulder.
I have not seen either woman again. I still do not know their heartbreak. But I do, for certain, know this. When God gifts us, He does not do it for our own use. He expects us to use our gifts for the good, help and maybe even healing of others. Do I know if that young woman was the one He meant the dance for? I believe she was. But, that was God’s work. My work was to obey and share.
At various times in my home community and around the country, I am asked to lead a movement workshop or tell story through dance in worship or other settings. I no longer hesitate when asked to dance or present. Instead, I pray daily for opportunities to use my gifts in ways that bring glory to Him and blessings to His children.
I also pray God will give me a heart to listen to and respect opinions of others. But when it comes to offering my gifts to Him for His use, I guess you could say that on that Ash Wednesday, I placed my hesitation and fear at the foot of the cross.
Copyright July 2012
Lakewood, CO 80401