From Mourning to Dancing
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-2 ESV
Choreographer Dana Standridge said she can’t imagine a time in her life when she didn’t dance. “This is how God has wired me,” she said. “I feel the best when I’ve put on music and move to it. A good waltz or three-four beat and I’m happy as can be.” Dancing is associated with joy in the Bible: Miriam danced and sang after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and David danced before the Lord. Four years ago, Dana’s mother was murdered in her childhood home by a stranger. “In the face of trauma, the world seems hideous,” said Dana. Joy evaporated, and for about two years she stopped dancing.
“I felt like God abandoned me and my family,” said Dana. Those years were dark with doubts and conflicts as her family pursued justice. Beauty broke through as rays of sunshine in the fog of Dana’s mourning. “Nature and music are two things that helped my family heal,” Dana reflected. “Beauty points to God. It says that life is still worth living.”
Over the next four years, God revealed himself to Dana in music and nature. Two months after her mom’s death, a secular song came on the radio: “I’m alright, I’m alright, everything’s alright.” The music delivered a simple message, and peace rang out from the radio: “Your mom’s alright. She’s okay.” Months later, the St. Peter’s Cathedral Choir sang Psalm 23 by John Rutter, a favorite of her mother’s that was sung at the memorial service.
At the Easter Vigil one year, she recalls, “I entered with tears of pain and left with tears of peace.” The music spoke to her soul, bringing hope with the lyrics and beauty of the performance. Candlelight burned bright in the opening song as parishioners held their lights. “My candle burnt down to a wick. I looked around and everyone else’s candles were burning at regular speeds, but mine was down to the wick and didn’t go out.” At the time, her family was still in and out of court, seeking justice for her mother’s murder. The candle became an icon for Dana, who was reminded of Isaiah 42:3, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”
Trauma can cause us to question the goodness of God in the wake of our pain. Grappling with grief, Dana wondered if she could still believe in God. The Incarnation Tallahassee band played the CityAlight song, “Yet Not I But Christ in Me,” one morning. The lyrics washed over Dana’s soul, bringing light to her darkness: “The night is dark but I am not forsaken / For by my side, the Saviour He will stay / I labour on in weakness and rejoicing / For in my need, His power is displayed.” “In that service, I realized I do believe this. I haven’t lost my faith. I still believe that God is good.”
Dana’s lament has turned to joy. In her guesthouse, she has installed a dance bar that serves as a space for joyful uninhibited dancing before the Lord. Hanging on her bedroom wall, painted over sympathy cards from her mother’s funeral is a quote from Joss Whedon she heard her sister utter: “The greatest expression of rebellion is joy.” God the Creator speaks in the beauty of culture and nature. One day, God will make all things new: there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). Waking with the sun one morning in the Florida Keys, Dana was captivated by its brilliance. It was as if God was saying, “Just wait until my Son comes back!”
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