Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. Psalm 149:3 (NIV)
Recently, a mentor asked me to name my fear. Ha! I am the definition of fearless, or so it seems. I cope. I do not panic. In the face of what some might view as paralyzing circumstances, I industriously move forward. There is no mystery in this forward movement; God wired me this way. I. Go. On. Going on does not mean you are not afraid; it just means that fear does not stop you. I cannot imagine being any other way.
I have not named my fear; they are legion. Among them are:
• asking for help
• reaching out to people I do not know
• not being good enough
• failing those I love
I could go on, but I won’t. I am learning to thrive in community, to rely upon others. I am beginning to consistently trust my instincts, believing that the still small voice that speaks when I am quiet is enough. More than enough.
Even for a scaredy-cat like me, there are absolutes. My desire to protect those I love vanquishes any fear I might profess; when they need me I AM THERE. Another absolute? Though I might never speak my faith to you, while you might see it in who I am or how I live, know this…
I AM NOT AFRAID TO DANCE.
Though I have danced all my life, I was consumed by the ministry of liturgical dance 10 years ago. It is the single most profound confession of my faith. It is the confession I dare not make with my mouth. It is too intimate; too close; too dear to speak. That is how I came to understand that dance is my prayer language.
Dance is my native tongue.
Ministry through dance is neither widely practiced nor well understood. It is a form of worship ministry, not performance. To the same extent that devotion leaders help us prepare the temple and the people, dancers do as well, in their way.
This is not a primer on liturgical dance, this is my story.
Liturgical dance is the place at which I meet God, unafraid. It is the moment when my desire to seek Him, to offer myself as a vessel becomes larger and more insistent than any fear. I speak it all to God when I dance.
Liturgical dance is my intimate conversation with God...
I am always amazed that I can even tolerate anyone watching...except that when I worship through dance, I am completely alone, even in a sanctuary full of people. I wish I could write what I feel, but that's just it…I could dance it for you. Explaining this connection, this experience, is beyond my capacity in this language. It’s not my primary language in speaking my faith.
I dance my prayers.
I give thanks before the altar, beside the dining room table, walking the dog, anytime, anywhere the words are not enough. When dancing your prayers, the movement is the words. I best make my offering through movement. I dance unafraid; consumed more by the need to speak my wonder, my gratitude, my pain, than anything else. It is like breathing. You do not think to breathe, you just do. Even dancing in front of a congregation, a part of me remains very much alone even in ensemble, set apart. It is intimate conversation, just the Lord and me.
I am grateful for the gift of dance--it’s my fearless place.
It allows me to express feelings, to share emotions I never articulate. It is the place where I am open. While I may be observed, the subtext is exquisitely private; mine alone. It is corporate prayer whispered in a personal prayer language expressed as movement. I dance my prayers. I affirm my surrender. I dance gratitude. I dance receipt of the gift of Grace. I say, "Thank You, Lord." I humble myself and submit to an anointing, praying that my movement releases something in a worshipper that even they cannot convey in words.
I desired a prayer language. I discovered I already had one. And I am never afraid when I speak it. I am not afraid to dance.
Rochelle Wilson blogs at Treat Me to a Feast about her life lived forward, reviewed backward, through the lens of faith. She’s a PK (Pastor’s Kid), who’s been a Baptist church musician since she was five. Always a dancer and athlete, as an adult she turned to liturgical dance to deepen her personal worship. It worked. Rochelle laughs a lot, is married to her first love and prom date nearly 20 years ago. Together God gave them two children and a boxer who is the other love of her life, confidante, therapist, and physical trainer.