Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness
That my soul may sing praise to Thee and not be silent.
Oh Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee forever.
My sweet Father passed away 14 years ago. He was a figure bigger than life to me when I was a little girl. He was 6’3, an extrovert’s extrovert. He would often whistle, sing hum, and wiggle and dance through life. His nickname in college was “slick”. Because he had grown up as a depression child with much sadness, he lived his life as an adult with as little acknowledgement of sadness as possible. He worked hard to provide our family with the ability to enjoy life and have pleasures that his own family had not been able to afford. I didn’t get a lot of personal, one on one time with him. Very little, as a matter of fact. But there are a few, sweet memories that live in my soul as exaggerated in size because of the rarity that made them so precious.
One sparkling summer evening, when the summer roses and honey suckle wafted through the breezes of the night, I was allowed to attend an adult party with my parents. Probably a wedding or social affair of some sort. I remember dressing up in a sky-blue, polished cotton dress that was adorned with delicate eyelet lace and belted about with a satin sash. My black-patton shoes, it seemed to me, were just made for tapping or dancing on the floor where all of the jewel bedecked, rouge-faced women were swirling and laughing with their husbands. Visions of romance marched through the corridors of my girlish mind as I dreamed of a future day when I would be on the arm of my very own partner, gracefully and lightly gliding over the floor.
Suddenly, my handsome, smiling father swept over to the place where I was standing and easily picked me up into his arms. “May I have a dance with the princess of the ball?” My feet hung limply down, as He held me tight in His strong arms and easily swung my 4’8” frame round and round the dance floor. I could smell the spicy aftershave he had lightly rubbed on his face as we danced cheek to cheek, and breathed in the warm, spicy aroma. The bubbling excitement and pride that I felt at that giddy moment, being in the arms of my hero, who always appeared bigger than life, left me almost breathless. I treasured each second with delight. The smiles and admiration of the other doting adults were not lost on me. Finally, the music came to an abrupt stop. Gently, my father glided back to our dinner table in his long strides and set me lightly upon my chair.
“Thank you for the pleasure of your company, sweet princess,” he affectionately said, as he turned to find my mother.
I haven’t visited this lovely memory in many years. Yet, it is a picture to me of one of the ways I have come to view my own relationship with God—dancing through life, with deep joy and gratefulness filling the core of my being, as I am held and cherished in the arms of such a great, admired and worthy partner. He picked me and carries me and celebrates life with me, because of His love, affection and kindness.
The older I get, the more I have come to cherish with great delight the joy and beauty my creator has generously bestowed on me—not because of anything I have done to deserve it—but because His very character is life and love and giving and celebrating and redeeming and creating.
I want to live at that place in my heart where I have come to know Him as such a person. I want to respond to His love with deep, passionate, grateful appreciation. I want Him to know how deeply I am beginning to appreciate all that He made in this world that I might experience pleasure and know beauty and rest in redemption.
I have struggled to get to this place. The onslaught of darkness of an enemy who is jealous of the glory of my precious Lord relentlessly pursues me every day, seeking to destroy the wonderful picture of my Lord that I have learned to cherish in my heart. Satan would love for me to focus on that which has been tainted with the stain of selfishness and destruction of sin. He would love for me to be ravaged in my soul with the fears that a post-modern world, filled with violence, a loathing for all that is pure and lovely, brings.
Yet, he seeks to deceive me on other sides, to doubt the reality of my prince. I am surrounded by those who live in the chains of legalism, a rule for every move in life, an air of condemnation and suspicion for those who celebrate the authentic joy of life. Instead they live a life of worry, fear and condemnation. These have lost the vision of their Warrior King who has layed down His own life, that they may have unending joy. Satan has deceived them into doubting and ignoring that light that is surrounding them, if they would but open their soulish eyes. These, Satan would use, to drag me down with them to the place of bitterness and harshness and oppression of soul, oppressed by my own inadequacies.
Yet, in order to continue to live beyond the oppressive blackness of the night, I must live with the ears of my soul straining the hear the music of the One who is creating, restoring and bringing life to a glory that will envelope and swallow up all darkness. I must look with the eyes of my heart for the beauty and color and design that every day shouts to me of the creator behind the luminous colors, powerful sounds, lovely words and thoughts that speak to me of His reality. I want to go down dancing—end my life, choosing every minute until its close, to celebrate the reality of His life with the fullness of faith and loyalty my king desires, living in the freedom of His gracious love, looking for the time when we will celebrate, in the final banquet, the victory He has so long ago preordained.
“Praise the Lord! Sing a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones. Let Israel be glad in His Maker;
Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing with joy on their bed.
This is an honor for all His godly ones.
Praise the Lord. Hallelujah!