One of my contemplative prayer practices is to dance with Jesus. Every day. Twice a day if I can. I have a particular song that we dance to, and a particular place in my mind. And it brings me great peace and has helped me trust Him more.
Some days, I don’t feel like dancing. And that’s okay, because Jesus understands when I’m sad and I don’t feel like dancing. On those mornings/nights He makes the meadowlands and/or stars dance for us.
But last night*, I was mad at Him. My mama isn’t doing well and it looks like she may have to go to a nursing home at least for a little while until she can get back on her feet. I don’t like that. I don’t like that we are having to go through this at all. So even though I told Him that I was mad at Him, and I didn’t really feel like dancing, He insisted that I dance with Him. He didn’t seem deterred at all by the fact I was pretty angry with Him.
“Why can’t we just sit, and You make the stars dance for us?”
“No, you need to dance with Me.”
“But I’m mad at You! Why would You want to dance with me?”
“It doesn’t matter. I will always dance with you.” And He held out His hand in expectation.
We started slowly, and I started crying. How can I dance when my mama can’t even stand? The thing is, dancing with Christ always delights my soul, and I find myself laughing with Him in joy every single time. I didn’t want to laugh. How can I feel joy when my mama is suffering so?
I kept my head bowed for a while, because I didn’t want to look at Him. I can be stubborn when I’m mad. But when I did finally look at Him, He was crying with me as we danced. Anger made way for sorrow and grief as we continued dancing. As we twirled, I noticed that the stars were dancing a long with us, and then during one of the lulls in the music, my mom appeared. We took her by the hand and pointed her face to the stars. “The stars dance for us Mama.” And she laughed with joy. We danced around her as she laughed and pretty soon we were all laughing even as we cried.
Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive. Life is hard right now. I have found that rejoicing in God, does not mean that I feel happy. Nor does it mean that my feelings of anger, sorrow, depression, etc go away. I used to think that being a Christian and finding hope in situations and rejoicing in God meant that I had to feel good in the process. That I had to spout off hopeful Bible verses and talk about how I’m trusting God that everything will work out. Romans 8:28, right? That I had to be encouragement to others even as I felt like I was drowning – after all, I’m a witness for Christ, yes? I felt like I had to be strong to show that I was really trusting God and to prove to others that He is good. Because me being okay in the midst of sorrow proves His faithfulness and is the kind of witness you want to have, right? That’s not true for me though. And I’m done with that. I’m done with trying to fit myself into that box that just doesn’t work. God doesn’t demand that, nor is it Biblical – it’s Christian culture that has shaped this idea. Rejoicing in God looks like me laying on the floor crying and asking Him why. It looks like me telling Him that I can’t do it, that I can’t handle things. It looks like me feeling angry at Him and railing at Him and throwing myself a good temper tantrum. It looks like me taking all of my feelings to Him and feeling them – inviting them in for tea with us and accepting them. He has never once asked me to deny any of my harder feelings, nor shamed me for being broken with Him. And therein lies the joy. That He accepts me as I am. That He meets me directly in my mess and will sometimes even sit with me in it until I’m ready to get up or until He makes me get up – ha! He’s there. God with us. The joy lies in having a relationship with Him that is so pure and strong, that nothing can break it, even when I feel like my life and everything else is breaking a part. My hope is in that relationship.
*I actually wrote this a year ago, and for some reason never did anything with it. My mama ended up having to stay in the nursing home, and is still there. But God walked with me through all of it, and continued to meet me where I was.