Dance With Me

When messages of shame and self-contempt take root, they block and obscure the gifts of gratitude and delight, and they hinder our ability to be fully present and engaged in our bodies. Here, Robyn Whitaker writes about learning to dance with her husband, and about how the movement of Sabbath is inviting her to reclaim the delight, intimacy, and embodied freedom that trauma sought to destroy. This post originally appeared on Robyn’s personal blog.

The first time I saw him I told my sister that I would marry him. She called me a “spaz.” My heart was undeterred. And apparently he had his eye on me, too. It would be almost a year later of dancing back and forth—him dating another girl, talking together, him breaking up with girl, talking together, me dating another guy, talking together, me breaking up with guy—before we had our first date.

Dance with me, I want to be your partner…

The first date? May of 1979. My high school-sponsored senior all-night party. My friends who were dating guys from the previous graduating class told me they were inviting their boyfriends. They encouraged me to invite my crush (aka: my future husband). I laughed, knowing my very strict stepfather. Good Christian girls don’t ask boys out. It was just not done. But by some shift in the heavens, I got to ask him! And he said yes.

Turns out, very few of the girls invited their boyfriends. I wondered how he would feel, but it did not seem to matter. We had a blast being together that night: talking, eating, bowling…I’m not really sure what else was going on, but there was dancing! A good ol’ ‘70s Soul Train line dance. My friends remarked how awesome we looked together dancing. I was ecstatic! I love to dance.

Can’t you see, the music is just starting? Night is falling, and I am falling. Dance with me…

We fell hard and early, dating for two and a half years before we got married. During that time, we never danced again. Oh, we danced in other ways—getting to know one another dating, in marriage, and as parents. Life got busy and the dance floor never seemed to call. Or we didn’t hear it.

It didn’t call in the bedroom either. No, that’s not true. The music and the invitation to dance have always been there; my body was just too war-torn from abuse to dance freely. I participated, enjoyed, responded, but always held something back. Lies spoke of always being dirty, never being enough for this man’s love. A war-torn body desiring and afraid to fully let go of my heart and soul to delight—to trust the man in my bed and enjoy with awe and gratitude. In full disclosure, I didn’t trust myself. For you see, even in bodily response, I have always known there was so very much more to be given and received. Yet I would not be duped by delight again—that had gotten me into trouble more than once. Yeah, I’ll sit this one out.

So I fought hard to hold my husband’s delight at arm’s length, and most certainly doubted that God’s heart for me was anything but delight. And yet my body craved a Sabbath rest. No more fighting. My soul cried out to experience a delight that led to life and to hear words of beauty drowned by the deceptions of my past.

My body craved a Sabbath rest. No more fighting.

I hope that you are willing. Pick the beat up and kick your feet up. Dance with me…

Several years ago, we were invited to take ballroom dancing. I was excited, and he was willing. It was disastrous. He was stressed and forgot steps. I was frustrated and took over. Even when we managed to get it right, it just was not fun. For either of us. So we stopped, although we did learn a few steps that helped us look like we knew what we were doing at weddings. This always left me desiring more, which I promptly shut down. Still, God’s Sabbath rest continued to invite me to a delightful dance of goodness. This would require an intentional choice to trust God and lay down my weapons—a risky choice that smacked of anything but life.

Over the past several years we have started dancing at home. At first I was leery. I was not sure I could trust the process. Wouldn’t this just all end up badly. And honestly, it was a little disappointing and rough at first. But something magical happened: we are having so much fun! As we began just doing our own thing and forgetting about focusing on the steps being right or wrong, we learned to be attuned to one another’s bodies. This has taken my breath away with its beauty and surprised my heart with awe and much goodness. As this dance of delight swirls among two souls joining as one, it feels holy.

Let it lift you off the ground. Starry eyes, and love is all around. I can take you where you want to go…

And you bet: being more attuned to one another’s bodies has added a new sweetness to our all-around intimacy. No, I am still not totally free—maybe never fully on this earth. That goes for both of us. But I no longer fear, and I now look forward with intentionality to more and more freedom. It’s about time we beat that demon down! Yes, we did it together—discovering our own dance moves as we listened to the music. Delightfully, Sabbath has called us to a playful movement into freedom from the remnants of past deception, and into the wonder and safety of God’s glory.

Dance with me, I want to be your partner…

Oh yes, please my love! Dance with me.

Song lyrics from “Dance With Me” by Orleans.