Dancing to the Rhythms of Worship
By Melissa Henderson
Worship goes beyond simply a mental state of religious fervor- it is the deliberate assertion of the reality of a particular thing or person. No person can go through life without worship- if not God, then something else (even themselves), but worship something they will. That’s why worship can take a myriad different forms as well. For Christians, their church background plays a huge role in how they typically worship. People usually choose to worship in ways that are familiar and or comfortable to them, and typically in ways similar to the people around them. We are creatures of habit, and of the herd. We rarely choose to try worshiping God in ways that are unusual, or that might make us stand out or be seen as "radical". We are deeply uncomfortable with what falls outside of our realm of familiar experiences and deeply concerned about what others may think of us, especially in the hallowed congregation of church community. But no matter how legitimate our reasons are, this does not change the fact that God delights in us, and longs to spend time with us in different ways that glorify Him. Because He has made all things for His glory, not just one or two while relegating the rest to lesser purposes.
In Gary Thomas's book Sacred Pathways, he discusses how we often put worshiping and spending time with God in a box. We think it has to be a certain way, and if we don't spend time with God in that way, then we are not being true "Christians". Not only does this belief limit God, but it also limits our experiences with Him. It is the same as expecting a father to spend time with all of his children in the same way. Every child has different passions and desires, and a father relates to each child differently. In this way, God delights to spend time with us in different ways. He desires to simply be with us and enjoy us in the way He has intended us to be. God loves diversity, or He would not have made every person and thing in creation unique. Besides, who is worship meant to benefit, anyway? God does not need our worship any more than He needs anything else, but he calls us to do it and really because we have everything to gain from Him through it.
Music and worship are synonymous in our culture today. One is not usually had without the other. For centuries, people have chosen music as a way to usher people into the presence of God; because it so universally touches our hearts and emotions. But limiting worship only to music is the same as putting God in a box- no matter how intricate. He wants us to use our gifts and the things that move our hearts to worship Him. Sometimes, even simple things such as how we position ourselves in worship can create a more impactful time with God. Being open to the Holy Spirit and how He wants to work in our lives and the lives of others, and stepping out into that plan that is so bewilderingly not our own, leads to a bolder and more fruitful spiritual life. As Oswald Chambers puts it, "God doesn't give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome." When we step out and are faithful with what God gives us, He will be faithful to meet us where we are.
God has blessed me with artistic abilities, both tapped and untapped. Besides a love and affinity towards music (which is the reason why I am a music teacher), I also love to dance. I experience things and express myself through dynamic actions, and dance is one of the best mirrors to reflect this state of heart. I did ballet growing up, and when I was 16 I injured myself and was not able to dance for five months. Devastated, I turned to God all the more because I had nowhere else to go. In the middle of this season, I was at a youth group event, talking to some of friends after the service. The worship band was still playing, and I felt God whisper to me an invitation to dance with Him- then and there, unmindful of the crowd. I told God that I would look weird and I wasn't supposed to dance because of my injury, so sorry but not this time. But right then, even as I was busy justifying myself, another woman broke into dance. That was all the cue I needed. I felt myself humbled and liberated at the same time, and I joined in, letting myself go, dancing for my King. That moment, something gave way inside of me, and I suddenly found myself swept away in a beautiful moment, a secret place where it was just Him and me. To this day, that remains one of the best times of worship I have ever had involving dance.
While it might look as though I am dancing to bring glory to myself - and sometimes, yes, I admit, I like to show off a little - dancing allows me to express myself in ways that singing, playing my flute, laying prostrate and praying in words just can't. Through dance, I feel closer to God, as though He is delighting in me and I in Him. It is something altogether beautiful. I dance as a way of surrendering, of stepping out to God and away from all hesitations and restraints. Obviously, dancing in worship is not for everyone, and not every worship space is conducive to dancing. God took me on a journey with dancing in worship, and in my previous church I would dance almost every Sunday. Now, I mostly dance for God in our secret place. Occasionally, I will feel the tug in a worship service, and as long as there is space and I won't be distracting others from the service, I do dance. When I do step out, I find I am blessed both from having the courage to follow His cue, but many times also because people will tell me that God ministered to them through my dancing. I am humbled and honoured to be used of God in this way, and will continue to glorify Him with the gifts He has so graciously bestowed on me.