Safety Dance

And David danced before the Lord with all his might . . . 2 Sam 6:1

As I sang in church this past Sunday morning, I longed to dance, move, raise my hands in worship. I envied those who do (side note: while our church is pretty edgy when it comes to music, no one dances and very few people raise their hands). My thoughts drifted to dancing in Africa – not some esoteric interpretive dance, although certainly that’s fine for some I suppose, but outright dancing with joy in his courts. And in a flash I thought, what would our African brothers and sisters think if they came to our service this morning and worshiped with us? Would they question if we really meant what we were singing? If God evoked any emotion in us when we sang about him, to him?

And in my mind I asked them: Why do you dance?

The answer came immediately and with force: Why do you not?

The burden of proof is on me. The reasons I don’t dance are far more telling about my relationship with him than their reasons for dancing. I’m afraid of what people will think. We just don’t dance in our culture or our church. I would feel awkward and silly. But the fact that those thoughts can run through my brain while I am singing shows that I’m not truly focusing on worshiping him through song anyway. And if dancing is the way I want to express my joy and delight for who he is, how is it that the opinion of others carries more importance to me?

Just as I was trying to process why I didn’t dance, the next question hit me: Is your worship too safe?

I’ve just started a book called Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson, and in it the author challenges us in the first chapter to be dangerous. He says:

. . . we (the church) try to tame them (people) in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is caged Christian. . . and the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.

Have I allowed myself to become caged? A confined soul that longs to dance – was created to dance – before her King with all her might, yet doesn’t feel free to do so because the safety of the cage is more appealing?

So I’m thinking about all of these things and discovering where I’ve settled for safety (although as a friend likes to say, safety is an illusion).

So what keeps you from dancing*?

*Okay, I know dancing isn’t for everyone, but you get the point right? What is keeping you from uninhibited worship of the King – even within your community?


  1. Aidan told me the happiest day of his life (he’s twelve) was dancing to the Lord in an African village. I would agree.

    I try to dance, but there’s just not much room!

  2. meh

    While I can feel enormously on the inside, I am not usually a very outwardly demonstrative person. But that being said, there have been times my heart has been so full of worship that were I by myself, I might fall to my knees or raise my hands. My personal issue in corporate worship is I would hate for my actions to distract another from their worshipping/seeing God . So I typically keep that passion confined internally in my heart where it is between me and God. I have no problem with others who are more demonstrative and certainly hope I will have the ears to hear if He desires something else from me in my worship of Him.

  3. I’m a kinetic person in that when I hear a rhythm, when I feel a rhythm, I want to dance to that rhythm. I’ve had these thoughts while at a symphony concert. In the corner, a little boy danced to Beethoven. Isn’t that how it should be!
    I think there are times and places where we need to break the constraints and dance, dance, dance! I do this often, actually.
    On the other hand, I want to be sensitive to how my actions may distract others from worshiping God. Sure, some of them may be waiting for that one person to break out into dance so they can follow. But some would focus on me rather than God. I think these sorts of things need to be addressed as a church in the whole context, to make sure that we as a body, worshiping God corporately, not just as individuals who happen to be in the same room but as members of the same body, are glorifying him together. There is a difference between individual and corporate worship. I try to challenge myself in my individual worship to break constraints, to worship whole-heartedly and creatively (what this month’s Glimpses is about, ironically enough), but corporately, I want to be sensitive to the body as a whole and move in a direction together.

  4. great post. I do the same thing – worry what others will think.

    at our church we have a gal who does flags during worship. She does it in the back because (I’m sure) my pastor told her too. 😦 Sometimes I hate my church.

  5. Amy

    I really appreciate this post. I struggle with the same kind of self-conscious, inhibited worship all the time. I think we should feel free to worship God with the kind of physical exuberance the Bible seems to expect, and not worry too much about distracting others. In fact, I think that restraining ourselves so we don’t distract others can be a kind of cop-out.

    We all have to fight against myriad distractions when we come to worship – crying babies, stressful weeks, relational conflicts, etc. We generally consider it our responsibility to tune out those distractions and focus on God. Why would this be different in the case of someone who is worshipping through dance? Why does the burden suddenly shift to the fellow worshipper to stop her behavior, rather than the distracted person to focus?

    Also, I wonder how distracting this kind of behavior really is? I am sometimes deeply moved when I see a single worshipper stand when all others are sitting. I am also moved when I read about the multi-ethnic throng of worshippers before God’s throne at the end of days, or about the multitudes of angels who never cease praising God day and night. And I was moved at those same African worshippers as spaghettipie was.

    I am fairly certain that if I saw David dancing with all his might, my own worship would be enhanced, not hindered. And if it was hindered – if I felt distracted by this annoying, sweaty, awkward dancer – wouldn’t that be my responsibility to address, not David’s? Which one of us is being unfaithful?

    Sorry for the super long post, but this issue just reminded me of a passage from a poem I like:

    “Therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
    not me – after all I have some decency –
    and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.” (Veni Creator, Czeslaw Milosz).

  6. I’ve never felt that urge to worship through dance BUT I do have the joy of watching children worship God every Sunday through dance. It’s a part of how they express themselves through movement and it’s amazing to see them do it without a thought in the world of what others think.

  7. spaghettipie

    Wow! All great thoughts, and I appreciate each of your views.

    When it comes to being a distraction in a corporate setting, I have to say that I’m not even to the point of that being a factor, of having to consider that question. I could take that element out all together and still be left with the fact that I struggle with letting myself worship as my heart longs to worship. And that’s the core issue for me.

    I think Katie makes an interesting observation that relates to all points brought up: children. When do we lose that childlike worship? And come to think of it, at that early age, they don’t seem to be overwhelmingly distracted by each other either. . . when and why does all of that change?

  8. When my daughter was young, she danced and danced. My dad and I wondered–why do all kids dance? And why do so few adults dance?

    For me, it’s a fear that my dancing is somehow insufficient. I don’t trust myself to dance in a way that will be anything other than a distraction to the people around me.

    So I sing tenor. And when the pastor preaches, I write poems as sermon notes. (And rarely show them to anyone because they might be a distraction.)

  9. Joel

    I enjoyed reading this post, Tina. Being a musician for most my life, I often think about musical expressions of worship to God. Interestingly, rhythm is the one component that is included in all musical expression — i.e. you can’t have music without rhythm. And rhythm invites movement by its very nature. I suppose one might then ask the question, “Is NOT dancing a neglect of a dimension of the musical expression of worship to God, and perhaps even the most important dimension?” The question seems a bit ridiculous at first; but I think it’s worth asking. And I think the answer is somehow wrapped in the even deeper question, “Why sing (or play instruments) to God at all?”

  10. Krista

    Glad we got to talk about this a minute when I saw you. The responses are great– adding more to the “conversation”. Even after reading all these wise and passionate comments I still feel if I were a dancer, that my heart should consider those who may see and what kind of distraction I might be.
    Thanks for putting words to some many’s thoughts.

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