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Revelations: For the love of dance

Nov. 11, 2011 at 5:11 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

By Jennifer Preyss

A few years ago, I worked as a nanny part time. I was also working as a freelance writer then, but some months generated more money than others and, quite honestly, I needed the extra cash. So a few days a week, I'd play mommy to the most adorable 2-year-old named Kane. He was a smiley little baby, and he almost never cried unless he wasn't feeling well.

I remember thinking how spoiled I was going to be one day when I had my own children because Kane was such an easy child to care for.

One thing I loved to do with Kane was dance with him. And, sometimes, I'd just sit with him on the floor and clap my hands while he shook his little body to the beat of whatever children's song was playing on the television.

Even as a little baby, he recognized music and knew he needed to move his body.

God used Kane to teach me many things about life, His children, and what original sin actually looks like. But one thing I remember contemplating as the nanny of a 2-year-old, was how God designed dancing (like many other things) for his enjoyment. Some of his children do it with greater talent than others, but we all know, on some level, that dancing is a part of life. We all know what it feels like to want to dance to a good song - and Texas two-steppers know better than most.

In the short time I cared for Kane, he showed me how dancing for joy, worship and even entertainment can absolutely make God smile. I mean, how can God not be amused by a 2-year-old dancing?

I was reminded of God's enjoyment of dance this week when I entered Kelly Johnston's Zumba class at Northside Baptist Church.

Kelly leads the Latin-inspired fitness class for women at the church two days a week, which concludes with a devotional and prayer time.

Standing in her class, I again thought, "How can God not be amused by this? How can this not make him smile?"

In my eight-year-long walk with the Lord, I've known many Christians who believe dancing (among many other seemingly trivial acts) is sinful. They tend to be more legalistic than I am, and often participate in any number of cultural Christian customs that have evolved through history - centuries after the Gospels were written.

Cultural Christianity is prevalent in our faith, and churches don't always encourage us to ask, "Is this custom Biblical? Is this behavior/action/restriction/law found in the holy scriptures, or is it something that aligns with church tradition?"

Anyone who knows me will testify to my traditional Christian values, the validity in which I view the scriptures and how much I love and revere the Lord. They'll also tell you I almost always reject (or at least question) many areas of cultural Christianity, unless the behavior or belief stems directly from the Bible.

In my own walk, I've made a habit of asking myself, "Is this relevant to the apostolic era of Jesus, or is this man's tradition? Would this be something Jesus would have actually said, or not said, done, or not done?"

Because I'm one of God's most obstinate children, I'm not at all opposed to delving into historical research when a question about my faith arises, especially if it helps me better understand why I believe what I believe. I've found it often aids my understanding of God's character and how I can better serve him as a daughter.

So, as I've continued to evolve in my faith, my own legalistic attitude of Christian tradition has relaxed considerably. I now see God as the author of all things beautiful and the creator of an infinite number of gifts and talents for his children - among which includes dancing.

Now, dancing for me does not include pole dancing, or hip-hop style grinding, or any other sexually provocative dance. But for one, or two people to just dance, let loose, have fun, shake their hips and throw their arms around wildly to a beat - I'm down with that. And so was God.

Dancing in the Bible is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments for worship, joy and praise. Look it up - Job, Exodus, Psalms, Judges, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Luke, Jeremiah - you'll find mention of dancing to the Lord, and sometimes mention of just dancing for joy.

The fun thing about Kelly's love of dance and unique ministry of Zumba is that it reminds me that anything we do (writing, singing, encouraging, loving, sitting, standing, forgiving, reading, studying) can be done for the Lord. It also reminds me that just because one Christian may see something as sinful, our job as God followers is to take our questions to God first and ask, "How can this be done to serve you? How can this make you smile? Are you pleased with this?"

We might just find ourselves praising God in ways we never knew we could, perhaps even wiggling our little bodies like a 2-year-old in front of television set.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com.

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