Dancing for Joy?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be thou my helper!”

11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,

12 that my soul may praise thee and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever.

Psalm 30:10-12

When was the last time you danced for joy? Maybe a long time ago, if ever? I hope not. When I was young, I was fascinated with the dance moves of actors like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’ Conner. They looked so graceful as they moved about the dance floor in perfect sync with their partners. The Psalms speak of dancing as a kind of release of inner emotions of joy. I can just imagine David being so overwhelmed by the goodness of God he just broke out into dancing.

In High School I was what you might call a ‘Social Introvert’. I wasn’t shy about meeting people or talking to strangers, but I was too shy to ask a girl to dance. The thought of possibly being rejected was more than my fragile self-esteem could handle, so I didn’t ask. In fact, I didn’t even go. I can only remember going to three dances in my growing years. The first was in the fifth-grade. That scared me so much I didn’t try again till my Freshman year of High School. I’m not really sure why I even went then. It must have been peer pressure.

The third time was the Jr./Sr. Prom. Since I had a girl friend at the time I felt sort of obligated. I know what your thinking. “How did this shy kid afraid of rejection get a girl friend?” She asked me out. “Whew!” That was a real relief. But even then, those dances were not something that flowed from my inner being. They weren’t expressions of joy.

However, after High School I began to loosen up a bit. I even joined the community theater. And would you believe it? One of the roles I was cast was as a dance instructor. I thought I was really something then. Talk about an ego booster – but it was short lived.

I don’t know if David grew up dancing at festivals or not. I’m thinking he probably did since dancing was a part of the Jewish culture of celebration. Several times in the Psalms we see dancing as an expression of inner joy, like in Psalm 30:11. Scripture even says God will cause his children to dance. Jeremiah the Prophet spoke of time when God would give such inner joy and peace that God’s children would break out in dance…

“The young women will dance for joy, and the men–old and young–will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” (Jeremiah 31:13 NLT)

In Psalm 30 we not only hear the voice of David praising God for his deliverance from a life on the run at the hands of King Saul (Psalm 30:1), we also hear the voice of Jesus praising His Father for delivering him from death (Psalm 30:3). Furthermore, throughout the Psalm we can sing our own prayer of thanks for the LORD’s salvation.

I was so thankful for being cast as a leading character in that community theater play all those years ago, I almost broke out in dancing. How ironic that a boy who never really danced was cast as a dance instructor. I thought to myself, “Well, this is my chance to really act. I can make it look like I know what I’m doing without really having to dance”.

But then it happened. Not only would I have to learn to actually dance and teach others, my dance partner in the play was the lady doing the choreography for the production. There was no fooling her. I had to move back and forth and turn and twirl as if I was Fred Astaire and she was Ginger Rogers. Well, at least that was the plan. But in life as well as in the theater, things don’t always go as planned.

One evening during rehearsal there was this one move I just couldn’t get. I tried over and over. I had to actually catch the lady in mid-air, suspend her on the side of my right hip as her left arm went round my shoulder, and my right arm went round her waist to hold her up. Then, at the same moment take her left hand as we turned and swirled around in a circle with her leaping off my hip and onto the floor on the other side of where she began. Those were some real ballet moves. It all sounded so graceful. The only problem was I wasn’t strong enough to hold her on my hip.

We always practiced the motions without my actually having to hold her up in rehearsals. Then came dress rehearsal and the great disaster. Not only could I not hold her on hip long enough to complete the twirl, I dropped her on the floor and as she fell she tore ligaments in her arm that was wrapped around my shoulder. Not only was I embarrassed beyond words, we had to re-write the script and cut a few scenes of dances.

I still love the thought of dancing for joy. Even all these years later and knowing I’m not good at at. I still love the thought of a heart so overjoyed it breaks out in dancing. How are your dance moves? Are they filled with joy? If you’re filled with sadness right now, listen to words of the Psalmist as he praises the LORD in verse 11. God wants to turn your sorrow into dancing, and take it from me, if nobody is watching – go for it! Our God is the one audience who will always give you a standing ovation no matter how bad you dance.

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://www.geocities.jp/artanisjp/510Letsf.htm

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