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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Dance With Me!*

I always believed I had no rhythm. It wasn’t true, but I believed it. Once, when speaking, I said rhythm had been bred out of me as a third-generation Nazarene (fill in other denominations who robbed us of the dance). I honestly believed it, but I had a memory of being about eight years old and tapping my toes inside my shoes so no one would see that I was moving to the music.

As I began to heal, I realized I did have rhythm. It was not exquisite or perfect, but it was movement. It was freedom. I was like a small child who discovered a treasure she thought she had lost. I had been to weddings with dances and sat apparently pious on the sidelines while everything inside me wanted to dance. Then my nieces got married and I went to Seattle and danced with abandon—not skill mind you, just abandon. Dance lessons probably need to be in my future, but now I understand I never lost the rhythm my small child-self tapped inside my shoes. It was simply trapped inside of my pain.

My healing journey has been a dance with God. I accepted God’s invitation with fear and trepidation and stepped onto the floor. Stumbling and unsure, the dance began as I was twirled and embraced. The smile on God’s face, as I rose to the challenge, was my reward for bravery and determination. The embrace held me as I wept silently. God even had one of those pocket-handkerchiefs for my tears. The music varied, the rhythm changed, but I never left the floor.

God and I understood it was a dance. When I would become discouraged, the band would receive instructions to play the song, Shut Up and Dance with Me. It came over the speakers in stores, on my car radio, outdoors in a park, and even at a church ministries conference. The message was always clear—Keep Dancing! Now, as I continue to master the dance of healing, it is my turn to invite others to the dance. It is a dance of vulnerability and healing. It is a dance of mastering new steps.

When I began to stand and invite others to join the dance, the reactions have been much the same as my observations at weddings. Some are proficient dancers who love to dance and move as soon as the music starts. Some are hesitant but happy to get on the floor when encouraged. Some sit on the side with longing to dance but the fear is too great. There are many who are apathetic to the dance, while others are uncomfortable. Some don’t feel the need to or can’t dance, but still watch in delight. Sadly, some are simply angry the dance is happening at all. What I enjoy most is watching someone get up to dance and grab the hand of another (often children) and lead them onto the floor.

I had to come to the realization that I am simply inviting others to a dance and their decision to dance or not to dance is multi-layered. My decision to get out on the dance floor of healing was certainly fraught with layers of shame, fear, and uncertainty. How could I possibly expect others to run toward the dance floor I avoided? I could easily interpret their silence as they look the other way as rejection, but the healing of the psyche is a dance that is often avoided by society at large, and the church in particular. Healing brokenness is not a popular dance.

In a blog I shared earlier, Tara Hedman said, “Perhaps your truth telling wasn’t the problem. The problem may be that the other person is uncomfortable with their own wounds, so the other person is unable or unwilling to hear yours. That is about their journey, not a reflection of your worth.”

No, it is not about my own worth or the gift I have been given. My gift of healing has freed me from all the layers of shame that kept me sitting on the sidelines and longing to get up and dance. God simply said, “Shut up and dance with me Janyne!” It is a dance. It is a spirited dance. It is a fast dance. It is a slow emotional dance. It is all these things, but it is a dance. It is a dance I have worked on for over two years in order to master the steps.

My invitation to all who read this blog is simply to acknowledge and honor the dance of healing. If you choose not to dance or feel no need to dance, your encouraging words and smiles from the sidelines will help those who have chosen the dance of healing from their emotional traumas. People should not have to hide as they dance their way to wholeness. The dance should be celebrated. Clap with the rhythm. Hold out a hand of encouragement. Tell them you are so proud they had the courage to accept the invitation and get out on the dance floor. Stay in your chair if you choose, but rejoice with those who are dancing.

To stare in silence, turn your head from the dance, or fear that the dance might make your toes tap in your shoes—all of this is a pall on the celebration of healing. Dancing is set in opposition to mourning for a reason (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Dancing with joy and abandon simply isn’t possible when drowning in sorrow. Both sorrow and gladness are valuable life experiences, but the first requires healing. While our life may cause mourning, the dance is evidence of healing.

I have been dancing, but now I am inviting others to the dance. Join me in the celebration dance of healing!

*Dedicated to Jessa Crisp who led the way for me to accept God’s invitation to the dance floor of healing. Watching her dance at her wedding (though I could only stand on the sidelines and smile) will always be a deeply treasured memory.

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