Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
On this recent encounter, the quote settled in me as saying something important about how I, at least, experience spirituality or faith. And I suspect it landed this way because of a deep theological conversation I had this afternoon — with an 8 year old.
Her mother had spoken to me a couple Sundays ago about her third grade daughter who had a lot of questions about God. Her parents were feeling a bit out of their depth, and asked her if she would like to talk to me. Thus, our appointment today. For 45 minutes, I was asked question after question about who God was, where God was, what God was. I was asked about Jesus, Mary, other religions. I don’t think I have ever been as thoroughly theologically quizzed by someone so young. I think my favorite part of our conversation was when she asked where God was located. I answered that God was everywhere and no where. Then I asked her if that made any sense to her, acknowledging that it was a somewhat difficult situation to imagine. She agreed that it was hard to think about, but then said, “But I think it kind of makes sense.”
This little girl is, I think, a child who has been dancing all her life to the mystical rhythms and music of divine grace to which her parents and her church have helped her become attuned. As she is getting little older, however, she is becoming aware that other children have other thoughts about God. Some of them practice other religions. And (this being California) it is likely that a number of them — perhaps most of them — practice no religion at all. And I wonder if perhaps it is beginning to dawn on her that some of her friends find her dancing a bit insane (or, perhaps, a little odd). I think that behind her questions to me lies a desire to continue dancing to the mystery of the divine — and maybe a little fear that the music might go away, that she might lose her connection and the dancing that goes with it unless she is able to move from the simple divine melodies of childhood into something a bit more sophisticated — more of a symphony than a lullaby. And, as she gets older, that will inevitably involve dancing more and more in the presence of people who do not hear the music, and think those of us who do to be just a bit insane.
I am reminded of another quote, a lyric, actually, from a song in which someone once imagined Jesus saying,
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he
May we keep hearing the music, and dance on.