“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.