Had a hilarious and self-evaluating experience in church yesterday morning.
Our children’s Sunday school format has changed a bit, allowing kids past pre-school age to spend the first half of the morning with their parents. I love this change, by the way. It means my 7 year old gets to sing and dance and worship next to me.
The hilarious part? He hasn’t quite figured out that us church folk have an unofficial list of approved dance moves.
The Pentacostal two-step? No problem. Holy Ghost Hop? Absolutely. A little cheerleading step clap? Why not?
But, Justus was devastated to learn that walking like an Egyptian and the Michael Jackson moonwalk have yet to make it through the approval process. Of course, I had no idea he intended to use such moves until service started and he busted them out. Right there. On the front row.
He deflated a bit when I–like a good mama–pinned him down and explained.
But, I’m worshiping, he said.
I just gave him the eye. You know, the mom eye. Yeah, that one.
Defeated (and slightly dramatic) he stripped off his sweatshirt. Staring at him, my face flooded with little pin pricks of heat. Due to our prominent placement, the entire congregation was looped into a little secret he’d been keeping. His Lego Batman t-shirt was on backward.
I like it that way, he said.
Because he’s a smart kid and could tell that I, the mama, didn’t like it that way, he slipped his arms into his shirt and attempted to turn it around.
He tried, God bless him, but he was all sticky and sweaty from the moonwalking and what should have been a quick little change, turned out to be a two-minute experience full of face making and little boy grunts.
At least the music was loud.
Next, we worked on clapping to the beat–the drummer’s beat, not the one he normally marches to. Who could have known such a thing would be so difficult? I was exhausted by the time he skipped out of the sanctuary and headed to class.
And I felt a bit like Michal. You know, Michal, King David’s wife. Staring out the castle window she watched as her husband danced down the street. He was worshiping and thanking God and it embarrassed her. The Bible says she despised him in her heart.
Oh, I wasn’t despising my little guy, but I was feeling the embarrassment. I mean, I’m a good Christian mama. Shouldn’t my kid know how to worship? Shouldn’t he know what to do?
But, the reality is more complicated than that.
First off, our approved dance moves may not be the only dance moves out there. I know it’s shocking, and I’m not advocating the Running Man, but I’m thinking being childlike isn’t a bad thing. Jesus Himself championed childlike faith. Squashing those tendencies in my son seems like an awful thing. A tragic thing.
Of course, the book of Proverbs also tells us we’re to train up a child in the way they should go, so that when they’re old they will not depart from it. I’m not sure Proverbs is talking specifically about dance moves, but worship certainly falls into the category of things we should teach our kids.
So, there’s this balance, right? As his parents, Matt and I are to teach him. We’re to show Justus that “worship” isn’t just dancing to music. He needs to understand why we gather together, why we have a song service at church–what all those instruments and singers are for–and we’re to teach him the kind of worship the Bible tells us God is looking for.
But, we also have to let him stumble along in his own relationship with God and worship like a child. Because the truth of the matter is this: God’s looking at his heart and not his moonwalking feet.
Of course, Sister So-And-So in the third row might be looking at his moonwalking feet, so it’s important that he learn not to be a distraction, but I’m happy to report we’re learning. All of us.
Yesterday afternoon, my AMAZING and incredibly intelligent husband, opened the scriptures with Justus and they talked about worship. They wrote out what the scriptures said. They had a glorious discussion about dance and instruments and standing before the Lord in silence. They talked about worship as a lifestyle. I folded laundry and eavesdropped. The entire thing was both inspiring and highly educational.
This morning, Justus asked if he could take his Bible to school.
So, if walking like an Egyptian and a sweaty Lego Batman shirt taught my kid to love his Bible a little more, I have to assume we’re on the right road.
And I like this road. I like where it’s heading.
It’s a bit undignified at times, but I don’t want to be like Michal. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to worship alongside my son because I’m concerned about what people will think. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to teach him because I’m embarrassed or frustrated.
Now that the chagrin has melted away, I find myself inspired by my son’s childlike faith. Motivated by his desire to dance with God.
And all of a sudden, undignified doesn’t seem quite so… well… undignified.