Dance: A Key to the Human Heart

FullSizeRender “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”(Deut. 6:5)  This call leaves no room for half hearted, double minded worship. In His perfect wisdom, He demands we love Him with everything we are.  Yet often we may feel dull and emotionless in the place of worship.  We may be tempted to disengage or end up participating in worship/prayer/church while feeling very empty on the inside.  How are we to understand such conflict at the core of our pursuit of God?

One thing we must remember is the reality of spiritual battle over the affections of our hearts.  Jesus, the true and holy Bridegroom of heaven is at work in the hearts of His beloved ones, “that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5: 27  Jesus has washed our hearts clean and is daily renewing our minds through His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.  One of the most powerful ways He renews our minds is by opening of the eyes of our heart through the Bible to see the superior beauty of Jesus! This revelation is made to stun our hearts, satisfy us deeply, and make us hungry to see more of Him.  It must also lead us to worship…our gaze fixed on beholding more of His glory.  The evil one works to steal our affections away from Jesus and attach them to “lesser loves” which offer counterfeit beauty and pleasure.  He seeks to dull our eyes (2 Cor 4:4) and numb our hearts so that they no longer respond rightly to Reality but believe a lie…namely that there is someone/something more beautiful and satisfying than Jesus.  By the grace of God, Jesus will have the victory over the hearts of His chosen and Beloved ones and keep us growing increasingly in love for Him rather than the world.  I love the stunning promise of His Word from Jude 24 that He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.

 As we are being kept, so we are by His grace to,  “keep [o]urselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” Jude 21.  Offering the movements of our physical bodies as an expression of worship and prayer to the Lord is one means of grace we have been given to “keep ourselves in the love of God”.  This  love, though not merely an emotion, must overflow with joy and delight in the presence of the Lord.  It is a command, “Delight yourself in the Lord” Ps 37:4.   Engaging our bodies in worship is a powerful way to help engage our hearts in worship as well.  How can this be?!

In the good purpose and design of God we have been created as embodied souls.  In this life our bodies can not be separated from our spirit.  After sin came in to the world, the separation of our body and spirit became a reality at death.  Yet this separation is only temporary!  One of the glorious realities of the gospel is that Christ, in taking on human flesh forever, will redeem and resurrect our physical bodies.  The significance of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, keeping a body for the rest of eternity can not be overestimated!

Our bodies are meant to honor the Lord. 1 Cor 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  What we do with our bodies, ie., our actions, words, movements are meant to be a direct reflection of our hearts.  Our spirits are likewise affected by what we choose to do with our bodies.  We can not separate ourselves out into disconnected parts.  Jesus means to have all of us!

When my heart feels dull, I have learned that if I will take up the word of God in Scripture and begin to sing it, (such as a psalm) and put expressive movement to it as well, my mind and emotions begin to respond to the truth that my body is expressing. There is nothing magical or mystical taking place. I am simply responding with all that I am to the Lord in faith, and the Reality and Truth of who he is breaks into my heart and renews me. This is what I mean when I say that dance is a way I encounter God. It is not apart from His Word, as if the movements themselves produce a spiritual experience. It is movement produced by a heart response of faith in what I read, flowing back in love to the Source and Savior of my life.

When I dance before the Lord, it is one way among countless ways that I pour out my heart and love to him. In the engaging of my body as an instrument of praise, I find my delight in Jesus increasing and my affections stirred, not primarily because it is enjoyable to dance (though it is that), but because my dance is speaking the truth to my spirit….namely, that who God has revealed himself to be in Christ and what He has accomplished on my behalf (Salvation!) is worthy of extravagant rejoicing.

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DANCE AND THE DISHES: Delighting in Jesus in the Midst of Daily Duties

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I was a new mom, thrilled with the gift of a baby daughter and filled with vision for raising her unto the glory of God. I couldn’t be more thankful for her life, and the privilege of being able to stay home to nurture her and the other precious children the Lord would give in time. Yet I was also coming to grips with how dramatically my life had changed. My growing responsibilities at home made it necessary to rearrange my schedule and scale back on some of my favorite activities. Some of the highlights of my days were to attend prayer meetings where I was able to worship and seek the Lord with my entire being through the Word, song, and dance. The reality of Psalm 149 filled my heart with great joy!

“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation…”

 One evening I had been looking forward to attending a prayer meeting all day. However, I must have had an extra full day because once I had put my baby down for the night, an extremely large pile of dirty dishes lay glaring at me from out of the kitchen sink. I knew what my responsibility was…what would honor my husband, care for our family, and thus glorify God. The dishes had to be done and the prayer meeting missed. I knew that my service mattered to God, no matter how small and mundane. He had been showing me that through his word for several years, preparing me to be a wife and a mom. What I was not prepared for was how he would encounter my heart through his word while I was doing the dishes!

As I was scrubbing and rinsing, thinking about how much I wished I could be at the meeting, the verse from Matthew 28:20 began to resound through my spirit, “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It felt as if one of the lightening bolts from the throne of heaven (Rev 4:5) must have struck my heart, and I began to weep. The revelation that Jesus was right there with me while I was doing the dishes overwhelmed me! As awesome and right as it is to gather with other believers to seek the Lord in prayer and worship, it was just as right that I seek him with all my heart in the hiddenness of my home, in the midst of my daily duties. He was with me!   He is with me! He will always be with me…to the end! He is worthy of all of my love and life in the great and noble tasks as well as the small and mundane ones. I knelt down and repented for all the times I had despised the daily duties of life as a wife and mom rather than used them as opportunities to encounter and praise Jesus. I acknowledged that one day in his courts is truly better than a thousand elsewhere. (Ps 84:10) Wherever I am, because the spirit of God is dwelling within me, can become the courts of the Lord where I meet him through his word and delight in the joy of his presence! As waves of mercy and joy washed over me, I got up and began to dance and sing. I sang the scriptures that the Lord had brought to mind. I put expressive movements to the songs and verses, and I had a truly glorious time! Every few twirls, I got some dishes cleaned, and by the end of the time, not only was the kitchen clean and put in order, but my heart was freshly cleansed and rightly ordered as well. Ten years later, I can truly say that chore time at my house has never been the same! Yet, I don’t always feel overwhelmed by revelation of the love and glory of God. I can still be tempted to see my ever- increasing (now that I have five children) daily duties as drudgery. In these moments, as the Lord gives me grace to fix my mind on his glorious word, to open my mouth and begin to sing his wonders, and to move my hands and feet to express the joy of my great salvation through Christ, the joy of the Lord floods my heart and strengthens me with grace for another round of laundry, dishes, wiping, and working….not to mention the eternal work of loving my husband, children, and neighbors for his glory!

I know that I am not alone in the desire and struggle for delight in the midst of duty. Gloria Furman has written two books recently, Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ when your Hands are Full that have encouraged my heart to continue to press on in this regard. In addition to singing, dancing, and praying Scripture, I also find that my spirit is strengthened with grace in the middle of routine tasks when I listen to Christ centered, Bible based sermons and meditate/memorize scriptures that speak to the anxieties and concerns on my mind. There is nothing more thrilling than growing in the knowledge of God! The command of the Lord in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” has become a compelling invitation to delight in the living God in the midst of all the diverse moments of my days. He has turned drudgery into dancing to the praise of His glorious grace!