Saturday, December 26, 2015

Closet worship: Wearing my grandma’s genes in secret

Originally posted July 13, 2009;
reposted here with minor edits.

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. And you can’t make me.

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 summers, 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, Mamaw, 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 have been moments, alone in the evening, when I plugged my iPod into my ears, clicked to the worship songs I had loaded, and it was as if my grandmother tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Wade in deep. Let go. Just dance!”

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

From time to time, when alone, the songs stirred my introvert 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 filled with the image of being before His throne and I was 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. Sometimes.

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

Sometimes, alone, as I have listened and sung along to songs like these, I became a little like David and my grandmother. I danced, I jumped, I reached up to the ceiling.

In those rare moments, knowing my own potential for evil and understanding that in spite of myself He loves me without reservation, the tears soaked my face, the snot dripped from my nose, my spare tire bounced, my hands clenched and opened, my arms raised to the heavens, my under-exercised body strained in clumsy dance, and I worshiped him, uninhibited.

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

God doesn’t care how uncoordinated my dancing might have looked. He didn’t care if my rhythm was off or I jerked about like an under-lubricated spastic robot.

What he cares about is the passion in my heart that’s directed toward Him. And in those secret moments, it was laser-locked on His amazing grace and awesome glory. I am humbled, crushed, grateful.

This is true even when, usually, I stand quietly in awe.

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, and mostly in my imagination. I’m an introvert after all (click here see this prior post and this one on the topic).

But apparently I did get a few of my grandmother’s dancing 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.

Given that I am prone to a-fib, I will admit I dont really do this anymore except in my imagination ;-). If you’re not Pentecostal (or Charismatic) how do you view “those” people? Are you expressive in your worship? Do you believe worship should be quiet and staid? How do you prefer to worship? Do you feel disdain toward those who worship differently than you do? Why or why not? Is there a difference between the content of faith and the expression of faith in worship? Share your thoughts in the comments!


  1. A great blog. I didn't know you had it in you. But I like that you did...or do.

    1. Shhh...don't tell anyone ;-)

      Thanks for the kind words, Gus!


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