Dancing with Joy
“Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.”
– William Stafford
It’s one of my favorite memories and we have it recorded on video. Zachary, our firstborn, was three. Colby’s Missing Memory had just been released on VHS (let me explain for the young people…it’s kind of like an 8 track…no that really won’t work. It’s a plastic black rectangle thing we watched movies on before the DVD). The star, Colby, was a large robot. He was sad because he had lost his memory of what friendship was. His band of young singers and dancers helped him find it again.
Zachary sat mesmerized by the video. Two or three songs into the story, he got up and began to mimic the dancers. No one else was in the room, he was completely without self-consciousness. I watched and then began recording his dance from the next room. It was free and fun until on one of his impressive spins, he caught me recording out of the corner of his eye.
That’s when the dance stopped. He became aware that he wasn’t alone. He became self-conscious.
self-conscious adj 1. unduly aware of oneself as the object of the attention of others; embarrassed.
What dark demon from hell is assigned to propagating this emotion? The seed of it is found in children. It becomes fully mature in adolescence. But the stench continues to haunt us well into adulthood.
We are slaves to our impression of what others think.
What is the opposite of self-consciousness? It must be one of the keys to experiencing joy in the dance. It’s probably been lost by most of us since childhood. It would be easy to see the opposite of self-conscious as self-confidence. That sounds right, doesn’t it? We work real hard; we practice, practice and then practice some more. We keep it up until we are doing the dance in our sleep. Our diligence brings confidence. This could work, but it seems an awful lot like the marching that I have done over the last 10 years.
What if the opposite of self-conscious is innocence?
Innocence is what you had before you believed that people were out to get you. You presumed the best instead of the worst about others. It was the softness you had before you faced the hard realities. You had it when you could bend without being broken. Maybe the most precious thing that I have thought lately is that Jesus can restore my innocence. I don’t have to live with my cynicism. The harsh reality of the world is that truth comes with consequences. But Jesus comes with truth and grace (John 1).
Jesus will take you at your worst and give you grace. He will clothe you in it if you will let Him. Self-confidence can be beaten out of you. Innocence shines brighter with each blow. Jesus is our sweet example of innocence. He took the worst that the world could give Him. He was mocked, spat upon, humiliated in nakedness and nailed to a cross. One hymn writer refers to the cross as “the emblem of suffering and shame.”
That is what the cross used to be. Now you probably are wearing one made out of a precious metal around your neck as jewelry! That is the power of Christ’s innocence. It transforms an emblem of shame into an ornament of beauty.
Innocence is a key to dancing with joy.