December 30, 2015 / Mandy Smith

Dance for the Healing to Come: The Strange Act of (Literally) Dancing in Lament

“Lament is rooted in the reality of brokenness. Hope is rooted in the reality of God.” – Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero, co-lead pastors of Lamb’s Church in NYC, at CCDA 2014

God has been calling me to dance. Which, like most things I sense from God, makes no sense. But, out of obedience, I began exploring the metaphor of dance, reading how dance is used in Scripture.

Until a moment at a wedding reception, when everyone at my table headed for the dance floor. As I sat there alone, I heard God say, “It’s not only a metaphor, you know.” And so, although I hadn’t danced for decades and although I wasn’t sure if it’s what lead pastors do and although I was self-conscious about my 1980’s “moves,” I danced, out of obedience. It was fun.

But it makes no sense to me because when I see the state of his Church, I don’t feel joy. How could God be calling me to express his joy in dance? Does he know something I don’t know?

For years I’ve been lamenting, crying out about my own broken state, about the state of the world and of the Church. And I’ve been encouraged to find other places where American Christians are lamenting, places like CCDA and Missio Alliance. I’m encouraged that Soong-Chan Rah recently published a book called, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times.

In light of everything we see in ourselves, in the world, in the Church, lament makes sense. Dancing doesn’t.

But today God prompted me to write a post about dance. It was as uncomfortable as his call to dance. I don’t want to communicate, “Dance to distract yourself when you should be lamenting.” For those who are comfortable and secure, dance can be distraction. As Soong-Chan Rah notes, we have a tendency toward triumphalism, which moves us toward problem-solving and which keeps us from thinking about suffering. It makes us want to jump to celebration. I’m not talking about that kind of dancing. The dancing I’m describing is made more meaningful because it knows lament. It’s not dancing because everything is right, it’s dancing to heal our hope that everything will be made right. So, for those who already know lament, who are worn out with crying, I invite you to dance with me, for the healing to come.

Two weeks ago we felt called to have a healing prayer service. It’s not something we’ve done before and it was a little terrifying: Would God answer our prayers? What if we asked for big things? The night before the healing prayer, I felt him daring me to dance. I wanted to say, “But I haven’t seen the healing yet. Why would I dance while we’re all still broken?” He just smiled back, warmly, with a hint of joy in his eyes and said, “Dance.”

So, out of obedience, I stood in our dark, empty sanctuary. I found the spot on the polished floor where the healing prayer would happen and took off my shoes. God was good enough to provide the music—live jazz from the cafe next door seeped through the wall. My shoulder stiffly twitched, as I clenched my eyes shut to avoid witnessing my own awkwardness. As hard as it has been to overcome control to learn the posture of lament and it seemed even harder to overcome control to learn the posture of dance. I don’t know what it looked like but I danced. I pictured the faces of those we would pray over in the morning, and I danced for each one. I felt my muscles loosen, my heart open a crack, my longing leak out and a little joy shyly emerge. By the end, I was sweating, not from my small, tentative motions but from the exertion of will, dancing when I felt like weeping.

Psalm 30 puts it:

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

The Psalmist says it in past tense. How might it look to dance it in future tense?

We dance it because we’re tired of talking, tired of weeping. We dance it because unless we dance, our hearts might break. We dance it together to remember we’re not alone in our waiting for joy.

I don’t know the healing God is doing in the hearts and bodies of those who came that Sunday but he had so much joy for it that he asked me to carry a little of it. I don’t know the healing He is doing in his Church, but he has so much joy for it that he is calling us to dance for it. So will you join me in the dance that our Father began?

Even if we’re weeping, come, dance for the healing to come.