A Happy Dance
by Lisa Harper
A friend of mine, Sarah, who’s a vocational worship leader, recently shared something that happened while she was leading worship at a multidenominational women’s conference. She described how the right side of the convention center was filled with more conservative Christ-followers who sang along melodically with subdued clapping as she led worship, whereas the left side was populated with women from traditionally charismatic denominations who were much more demonstrative. They clapped really loudly, swayed to the rhythm of the music, and sometimes even shouted phrases like “Glory to God!” or “Thank You, Jesus!” between songs.
During the lunch break, a few women from the right cornered Sarah and said they felt like the other side’s effusiveness was highly inappropriate. (Not unlike when King David’s wife, Michal, turned her nose up in extreme disdain over his public display of pure joy: “Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart” [2 Sam. 6:16 nasb]). They complained that such noisy and overt expressions of praise were distracting and made them feel uncomfortable. Then they primly asked her to encourage the girls on the left to tone it down a bit. So prior to the next worship session, my friend reluctantly approached the leader of the loud girls and explained the situation. The leader’s face fell with disappointment, but she graciously agreed to ask “her side” to temper their zeal. Then she said wistfully if only the others knew what God had rescued them from—drug addiction, physical abuse, paralyzing shame from abortions, etc.—perhaps they’d be more tolerant of their enthusiasm.
Sarah’s heart broke during the first song of the next set because those precious women who’d been so full of life now seemed deflated. Their earnest enthusiasm was replaced with undeserved disgrace. Propriety had trumped passion. So she stopped strumming her guitar and started speaking her mind. She expressed regret for asking anyone to rein in her ardor for Jesus. She lamented the way Christians tend to value decorum more than divine grace. Then she repeated the leader’s lament about how if the others knew from what the “boisterous brigade” had been mercifully and miraculously saved, they might be a little less judgmental. By the time my friend stopped teaching and started singing again, she said even some of the stiff chicks were attempting to boogie with the beat!
Sarah’s experience reminds me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and then anointed them with expensive perfume (Luke 7:36–50). Religious people misinterpreted her behavior as being too demonstrative as well. But Jesus justified her extravagance when He proclaimed, “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful” (Luke 7:47 msg).
The jubilant dance described in Psalm 150 isn’t just for Pentecostals or extroverts or folks with rhythm. It’s a biblical template for joyful believers to express how very, very grateful we are for God’s mercy and forgiveness!
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