My teenage daughter can back me up on this. I don’t know how to dance. But that doesn’t stop me.
And three times in just over three months I’ve been to concerts with that daughter, finally, after way too many years. I have found it much easier to be a dancing fool at this stage of life than I did as a younger woman with feet that could take all the bouncing around.
Growing up as the daughter of a Free Will Baptist preacher, it was drilled into me that dancing was bad. Worse than playing cards, but not as bad as drinking. So I danced with my girlfriends in their homes, but never in public. The bump and the hustle were our favorites, ones where you stand next to each other and all do the same moves. And moving to the music felt so good.
I didn’t go to the same concerts as my peers. Dad was big into southern gospel music, promoting “gospel sings” at local churches, high schools and other venues. So I was around a lot of music and musicians my whole life, hanging out backstage with the bands, even performing on stage with my family during intermissions. I regularly helped unscrew microphone stands and carry them out to the buses to pack up after concerts.
Music was important to my parents, who were often part of a gospel quartet, and Mom played piano at church. Dad helped start a local Christian radio station that is still operating, where I spent a lot of time since Dad was the first general manager, and our church often held events there. I knew the music and the people who made it. I had an autograph book filled with illegible scrawls from dozens of southern gospel performers.
I was probably twenty before I went to my first non-Christian concert, Speedway Jam, an all day mid-summer festival that drew in more alcohol and drugs than I’d ever seen, passed around freely. I remember there was a lot of flat-out stupid behavior that went on, and I participated.
A girl near our island of blankets and coolers had drunk so much that she passed out. I recall feeling helpless. Her “friends” were oblivious to her condition. Her skin was getting burnt in the hot sun so I rigged up a makeshift shade cover by moving their coolers near her head and draping a beach towel over it. This was before cell phones, bottles of water, and I think even before 911 in our area.
I remember being struck with how stupid we were all acting, pursuing pleasure without regard for others, without really caring about ourselves, drinking in the hot sun, burnt and dehydrated and acting like complete fools. The first part of Titus 3:3 could have been written about our gang:
For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures…
I made it to a few more concerts but I could never forget that girl, and I gave up my senseless partying behaviors after that. I still enjoyed my 70’s and early 80’s rock music, but I had no desire to venture back into the culture of alcohol and drugs that went with that scene.
More than ten years after that, Dad, who was still hosting a Sunday morning radio show before church time, mentioned a new Christian station was starting in town. Southern gospel no longer appealed to me, so I wondered if contemporary Christian music was more like my rock music.
That moment, listening when YES-FM went live, stands out as one of those mile markers where I think about life before and after that point. I can honestly say that in these almost twenty-seven years, the music and artists I’ve discovered, the concerts I’ve attended, the DJ’s and employees of the station I’ve heard and met, the prayers that have been prayed for me, the privilege of praying for and supporting this ministry, have been THE MOST DIRECT way God shows himself to me. I would not be as in love with Jesus as I am without YES-FM.
Just thinking about it makes me want to drop to my knees in thanksgiving.
In the early years of YES they had several $5 concerts every year, and we went to almost all of them. But after we had more little ones, it was years between concerts, and once my two oldest kids moved out I didn’t have anyone willing to go with me. Until I talked my youngest into using one of the tickets I’d won (on YES-FM!) to go to Big Church Night Out in November. And then Winter Jam mid-February and Toby Mac Hits Deep Tour two weeks later.
When I have the opportunity to be totally immersed in something good, that has gotten me through the deaths of my loved ones, that has given me hope that whatever I face will somehow work to draw me closer to the one who created and loves me beyond measure, I don’t know how I can do anything less than dance with abandon.
King David got it. In II Samuel 6 he had been trying to bring the ark of God home. This was a serious thing because in the days before Jesus came it was where God told them he lived. After some mishaps David finally went after the ark himself and brought it to Jerusalem, where he celebrated its return.
For me God lives in music. I love studying the Bible and a good, challenging sermon, but where I feel fully in the presence of God is while singing at the top of my lungs. And for most of my life, up until that day in 1992, that place where God lives so transparently in me was out of my reach. Music and songs spoke to me, but not of God or of his desires for me, only of those old passions and pleasures.
In one pivotal moment the presence of God was brought into my life, through music on YES-FM, the every day miracle of a relationship that changes me continually.
So my response to getting to be in the loud, bright, pounding, screaming, reckless presence of God in a way that gets around all my defenses, that opens me up to pure praise and humbling worship, uninhibited and abandoned, drenched in love and gratitude, is much the same as David’s famous answer to the disapproval of his wife for his own celebrating: I will become even more undignified than this!
And look eagerly for the next chance to dance in the presence of God.