Monday, July 13, 2009

Closet worship: Wearing my grandma’s genes in secret

I don’t dance. At least not in public. I did once when I was in high school. I let myself go at a dance that I stumbled upon while at a choir contest in another town. My arms flailed, my head bobbed, my body twisted and turned, my feet shuffled about. Later, as I thought about it and pictured myself as others must have seen me, my face reddened. That was the end. Ever since, I’ve never been able to muster up the courage to dance in public. No matter how much I want to, or how much I care about the person I’m with who wants me to, I just can’t move a muscle. I freeze from the inside out.

When I was a kid, the church I grew up in was one rockin’ place. We were Pentecostals and we didn’t care who knew it. In the summer, before the building was remodeled and air conditioned, the unscreened windows would all be wide open, the music would be pumpin’, and the people would be jumpin’. It was great.

My grandmother Clark, Mammaw, was an amazing woman, full of the Spirit, and totally uninhibited in worship. I guess I didn’t get her genes. She, on the other hand, would let the Spirit take her and would dance her heart out.

Not only did she dance in the Spirit, but she did it with her hands raised, a foreign tongue spilling from her lips, her face lifted toward heaven, and her eyes closed! Exalting and praising God, she moved from one end of the steamy bug-filled sanctuary to another, in and out of the rows of old leather theater seats, and did not bump into anyone or anything. I never saw her trip.

While it just wasn’t in me to do what she did, I watched her intently. Partly because I thought for sure she was going to do herself or someone else serious harm. She moved fast! But also because it was so cool to see someone totally immersed in the presence of the Lord. She practically glowed.

David, who “danced before the Lord with all his might,” and my grandmother, got it right. I can just envision David, his body tense with the sense of God’s power, sweat pouring off him, tears soaking his face, snot dripping from his nose, the kicked up dust of the road coating his skin in a moist mud, lost in fierce focused worship, his spirit aching toward the heavens and an even more intimate experience of God.

That’s what you do when you unabashedly acknowledge the depth of sin in you that has been forgiven in the face of His absolute holiness.

There are moments, in the evening, when I plug my iPod into my ears, click to the worship songs I have loaded, and it’s as if my grandmother taps me on the shoulder and says, “Wade in deep. Let go. Just dance!”

And, please don’t tell anyone, but I do.

The songs stir my shy heart with the passion of God’s love. “I can only imagine…Surrounded by your glory, What will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus! Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”

My mind fills with the image of being before His throne and I am flooded with the Spirit’s power and gripped by His love.

“Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere! … My heart and flesh cry out, for You the living God.”

We sing this song in church, and it’s all so nice and neat and proper. But inside, my inner dancing man strains to see His face, to touch his hem, to be embraced. When I’m alone, the inner dancer comes out.

“This is the air I breathe. Your holy presence living in me. And I, I’m desperate for you…”

Alone, as I listen and sing along to songs like these, I become a little like David and my grandmother. I dance, I jump, I reach up to the ceiling. Knowing my own potential for evil and understanding that in spite of myself He loves me without reservation, the tears soak my face, the snot drips from my nose, my spare tire bounces, my hands clench and open, my arms are raised to the heavens, my under-exercised body strains in clumsy dance, and I worship him, uninhibited.

There are moments it feels as if my chest will split open and my spirit will go soaring straight to the sky. And that is a very lovely feeling.

God doesn’t care how uncoordinated my dancing may look. He doesn’t care if my rhythm is off or I jerk about like an under-lubricated spastic robot. What he cares about is the passion in my heart that’s directed toward Him. And at these secret moments, it is laser-locked on His amazing grace and awesome glory. I am humbled, crushed, grateful.

I ache and long and yearn to “fly away, oh, glory!” I want to be completely “washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb.” I want to “sing of [His] love forever.” I want to see the “mountains bow down and the seas … roar at the sound of [His] name.”

“Holy, holy, holy….”

I’m not holy, except by virtue of His grace and mercy, and for that, I will dance, and cry, and be foolish. Okay, only in private for now. I’m an introvert after all (click here see this prior post).

But apparently I did get a few of my grandmother’s genes. That’s not a bad thing either. Maybe, just maybe, one day, some of that will leak out in public. But, in the meantime, it’s better to have danced before the Lord in private than to never have danced at all.


1 comment:

  1. LOVE this story, so beautifully told, so honest and real, I appreciate that!


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