Just Dance and Be Loved
How a lesbian wedding and a song from The Greatest Showman taught me everything I need to know about God and life.
“I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one'll love you as you are”
As the wedding singer belted out the standout ballad from The Greatest Showman, I couldn’t take my eyes off the dancing couple.
The two women, wrapped in each other’s arms, smiling with their whole being. Finally wives at last.
What a perfect song, what a perfect moment.
I LOVE LOVE
I love weddings. I love love.
On any given year I officiate a handful of weddings and they’re just my favorite thing. To stand in the presence of two individuals making a public and sacred vow of intention to seek the creation of something stronger and more beautiful through the merging of their lives?
Sign me up.
This is perhaps even more so when the couple getting married are gay or lesbian, as was the case last week. I watched, enamored, while my newlywed friends spun around the dance floor as the song continued. They tuned out everything and everyone as their eyes fixed on each other, swirling in a twister of love reserved for none but them two.
I stole a glance at the circle of friends and family. Not a dry eye or a straight face among us.
Speaking of straight, us straight folk have been doing this marriage thing in some form or fashion for a really long time—occasionally getting it right, but often making a mess of it. By comparison, though, the handful of years that America has legalized same-sex marriage is dust in the wind.
As a result, my experience has been that not only do such ceremonies still have that new car scent to them—adding an air of freshness and excitement—but they also have a hint of... what is it... defiance?
There’s this powerful energy that seems to emanate, testifying a message of, “nice try humanity, but you can’t hold us back with your silly little prejudices and antiquated laws of oppression.”
Or, as the singer declared,
“But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious”
IGNORE US AND DANCE
As my friends danced and soaked in the love of all who surrounded them, I had the thought, “I hope they ignore us.”
Then I thought, that’s a strange thought, where did that come from? Followed by, oh, right, because if that were you in the middle of a group of people it would be almost impossible for you to ignore everyone.
You see, I have issues with not only believing that everyone is looking at me, but then also feeling like I have to manage what they’re seeing as well. In the Enneagram world we call this being an “Image Type,” where we (Types 2,3,4) are overly aware of and invested in how we are being perceived by others.
So as my friends shared their special moment together, while the song kept being sung,
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown 'em out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me”
I kept thinking,
“please ignore us, please ignore us, enjoy this moment and pretend we are not here!”
The way my brain would’ve processed that moment, had I been the one dancing, was to think in terms of putting on a show for the crowd. Maybe making silly faces, or singing along to the song, or any other effort to, well, earn the affection and adoration of the audience.
That’s my default mode, you see. It’s how I live my life normally, while just shopping for bagels at Albertsons. So then add a handful of onlookers who really truly are looking at me (because I can be honest, the odds that the other shoppers at Albertsons are watching me are 70/30... okay, 50/50... alright, FINE, 20/80 and I won’t go lower!) and all those instincts of mine get cranked to 11.
As the happy couple’s first dance continued it became clear to me that my desire for them to just soak in the love, ignore us, and not try to earn our adoration, was entirely my own projection.
FEAR OF BEING SEEN FOR WHO WE ARE
“Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”
I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes (most times?) I am “scared to be seen.”
At least, seen as the real, naked, me-without-all-the-glam.
Clearly I’ve chose a vocation (pastor) and other endeavors (live-streaming shows like The Alter and The Kate & Colby Show) where I’m very visible and seen a lot. It’s not scary, though, because most of the time I’m projecting an image of who I want people to see.
But if we’re talking just me as me? If I’m being totally honest, that’s terrifying.
Which is why I end up performing during the dance, trying to earn people’s attention and admiration, because deep down I believe that just me dancing is not enough. That’s too vulnerable.
So I crack a joke, I get people laughing, I say something smart, I deflect with perfectly crafted humility.
Hustle, hustle, hustle.
Earn, earn, earn.
“Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in”
Which is my goal, of course. That’s my hope. That I might find the fortitude to, as the song says, not let the “shame sink in.”
Because it is shame that convinces us of our unworthiness.
It is shame that coaxes us to put on the masks, to perform, to be anything and anyone other than who we are.
It was shame that led Adam and Eve to fear their own nakedness and seek clothing to cover up.
Shame tells me I’m not enough as I am.
Shame tells me that people only like me, respect me, enjoy me, if I’m this, that, or the other thing.
And yet, as the climax of the song flawlessly divulges,
“And I know that I deserve your love
There's nothing I'm not worthy of”
That’s it. That’s the secret. That’s the truth.
That’s the message that is truer than anything in the universe.
That’s the foundational reality that well-intentioned humans throughout history have obfuscated through religious practices and decrees.
At our very core we are worthy of Love, yet such a profound idea feels both impossible and unlikely, so we cover, cover, cover it up. We hustle and we strive and we project and we protect, all in our efforts to justify that we are worthy. To earn it.
GOD WANTS US TO DANCE
I’m more and more convinced that what God wants for us in life is to just dance.
To simply revel in love. To stop the striving and the performing.
I desperately wanted my friends that night to tune us out, to not feel like they owed us anything or like they had to perform for us.
I just wanted them to enjoy each other and the moment.
My sense is, even (especially?) in religious contexts we do a lot of performative art to make God happy when really God is just standing their, smiling at us, already endlessly happy because we are happy.
Like I said, I love weddings.
I love love.
One of the biblical writers once said, “God is love.”
Using the Symmetric Property of Equality (if a=b then b = a) then perhaps we might also say,
Love is God.
“Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum”
May the drum we beat be the drum of love.
Because we are loved. We are love.
We are deserving and worthy.
May I, may we, one day be able to fully sing,
“I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”
I am a loved child of the Divine, fully loved by God just as I am.
The more I receive it, the more I believe, the more I embody it,
the more I can simply enjoy the dance of life,
and quit the search for fig leaves to cover up in shame.
How About You?
First off, have you seen The Greatest Showman? What did you think?
Do you struggle to feel like who you are—just as you—is enough?
How does feeling the eyes of the world upon you make you feel? Make you act?
How does it feel to think that God might just want us to dance? To enjoy life, to love, to be happy? Does that thought feel light and freeing? Or scary and heavy?
Watch the Lyric Video
If you haven’t watched the lyric video for “This is Me,” I highly recommend you give yourself the gift of these next three and half minutes.
We sing this song regularly during our worship services at Sojourn Grace, and it gets me 😭 every time.
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Beautiful. As a gay man who came out at 43 and found my soul mate at 44, I feel defiant. Seminary grad. Celibate most of my life. Determined to do what was right... I held on to a dream that was more a nightmare. Now, I share often and loudly, probably much to the chagrin of many of my peers and loved ones, that I am a gay Christian and that being gay is not a sin. Looking forward to reading your book. Cheers Brother.