Yesterday (when I wrote this post) was Project Light, and I know I’m probably riding that post show high, but my heart was so filled by what I witnessed. For the first time, I felt like I experienced and understood what it meant to worship God with the gift of dance that he has blessed me with.
Recently I’ve felt like I’ve been on this whole long journey in understanding myself more. It’s funny because I get this image of me backpacking through a vast landscape filled with mountains and forests. I’m hiking alone along the path before me, but I’m not lonely. It’s more like I’m in a place of freedom to dig deep into my own thoughts and figure out what my roots are. What are the things that drive me, what are my purposes, my goals, the things I love doing most and why I love doing those things.
Last Spring I made the decision not to return to Abba Modern. I was in a state where I was asking myself why I was dancing and what I was dancing for. I came into freshman year and picked up dance because it was the logical continuation after leaving Rhythmic Gymnastics. It was something that would still keep me active, and it was something that I also enjoyed because I was sort of decent at it. But finishing up sophomore year I began to question a lot when it came to dance and why I was doing it. I’m the kind of person that tends to think deeply about the things that I do, and I whole heartedly believe in understanding the heart and intensions behind the decisions I make. When I was trying to process through what my heart was thinking of last spring, I wrote a letter to myself:
“Dance is a beautiful thing that God has given us the ability to do. But I’ve known for a long time how hard it is to keep God in the picture when it comes to dance in a secular world. The anxieties of inferiority, comparison, and pressure to be a certain way are so strong and compelling it’s almost impossible to escape. It’s so easy to get trapped into insecurity and worldly excellence that it obscures our view of God in dance. One of the reasons why I refuse to dance in front of people and freestyle in group settings is because I know how easy it is for me in that situation to fall into the heart of wanting approval from others and the prideful heart of trying to prove something to people or prove that I’m good enough. All of that is worldly and also self serving. It has nothing to do with God. And I know that if I let myself into that setting, my mind will only think of those self conscious things, and that is not what I want. I want to dance as if I’m singing, I want to move my body and truly feel like I’m praising God and not caring what others think of me. I want the time to slowly find my confidence in dance through God.”
For some people, dance is just dance, and there’s not much else to it. They dance because they enjoy it. I danced my first two years in college because I loved the community I was in. But coming into junior year, things started to shift. I got tired of the college dance culture. I started to realize that things were getting less and less about dance and more about other reasons. Which is fine maybe for other people, but for me it just stopped clicking. I didn’t like the hierarchy. The mental rankings of who’s good enough, who’s well respected in the dance community, who has the best set…. Everyone wanting to be someone else…to be like someone else or as good as someone else. People would say that as Christian dancers with a Christian set, we were worshiping God. But to me, it felt like a game of trying to get my heart to believe what my head knew and memorized. I told myself that that was what I was doing, but in reality I didn’t truly understand what dancing to worship God was.
This year, I took the time to explore what dance was to me. And it was so good. I danced what was comfortable to me, I moved in the way that felt natural for my body. And it felt so freeing. For me dancing like that feels like breathing, it feels like my movements are an extension of who I am. I would say that I fell in love with dance again this semester. When I had the freedom to explore how my body is able to move to music and the freedom I have to dance to music, I began to see how beautiful God made dance to be.
I often have a hard time worshiping during Church service. The lyrics might flow out of my mouth, but my mind wanders around a million miles away. I sing things, but sometimes my heart feels disconnected. I’m not an external processor. I process a lot internally, and I often find it hard to express my internal thoughts through words. But when I started worshiping through my dance, I felt like I learned what it meant to worship God. What I couldn’t convey through words, I could express with my body movements. The feelings that I wanted to say but couldn’t put into words I could show and live out in my dancing. I didn’t need people to watch my dancing. It could just be me in the apartment when no one was home, dancing to worship songs. But I felt like I was talking to God in those moments.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.[a]
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
~ Psalm 19
I was brought back to this verse when I was dancing to worship God. The heaven and skies speak of God’s creation without uttering a word, and I believe the same goes for dance and the arts. They can reflect the Glory of God without ever saying a word. A painting, a dance, they can both touch people and make people see beauty without saying a word and I think that kind of beauty reflect’s the Glory of God’s creation.
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I