When Church Feels Like Ballet Class (some thoughts on Posture, Strength, Flexibility, and Attitudes)

 

Someone asked me recently when last I was “wowed” by church. I didn’t know what to say, but it made me wonder about the question: should I expect to be “wowed” by church? If not, what should church feel like?

I’ve been wrestling with this for days, and the closest answer I can think of is to say I want church to feel like a ballet class. It’s been a long time since I was in ballet class but this is what I remember from the years I spent in pink tights: there was something profoundly good about group dance classes. I could work on stretching and routines at home, and I could have a hundred dance parties with friends… but ballet class was non-negotiable. We all stood in a row at the barre, and worked through the warm-ups, positions, and attitudes of the discipline together. We would stand tall, and the teacher would remind us to breathe, to look up, and we would move our bodies through first, second, third, fourth, and fifth positions; seeking beauty and strength in every exercise.

The studio had mirrors so we could check our alignment, and work on moving in concert with our class members. The teacher would walk up and down the length of the barre, sometimes moving closer as my feet were extended in point to make a micro correction to the position of my hip, or my ankle. I was always trying as best I could to be in the right position, but the teacher could see little adjustments that needed to be made and it was always surprising to me how a little nudge, a little turn of the foot or angle of the neck could suddenly lengthen an arabesque, or make me feel a stretch in a way that I hadn’t before and which I just knew was right.

I cried as I tried to describe this to my husband as my hope for church. I don’t expect church to be a Master Class with Misty Copeland every week. And I’m not a beginner: I can just imagine how overwhelming, foreign, and downright awkward an adult ballet class must be to someone who hasn’t done it before. But church at its best feels to me like a ballet class: where we gather in community to do things we could have done alone at home, but there’s something so good about stretching and strengthening our souls in a group setting. Singing and sitting under teaching feels to me like a series of barre exercises under an insightful instructor: my spiritual walk mirrored by the practice of those around me; and the words of the songs and preacher are seldom BRAND NEW BIBILICAL REVELATIONS!!!! with brand new coreography…. but they are like the micro-corrections of attitude and posture in life by the Holy Spirit. See how I thought I was extending myself in the right direction? No, the instructor nudges, adjust a little that way. Adjust a little this way. Breathe and make this adjustment. And see? Feel that stretch? I know it is right.

On a good Sunday, I leave church spiritually limber: my body and soul attuned to the rhythms and attitudes of grace. My deepest core has been strengthened, I am more flexible than when I came in, and I am grateful.

4 thoughts on “When Church Feels Like Ballet Class (some thoughts on Posture, Strength, Flexibility, and Attitudes)

  1. Oh Bronwyn, this is beautiful! Thank you. I love your analogy. ‘Spiritually limber’, I’ll be using that phrase soon.

  2. Hi Bronwyn! I loved your response but just can’t get over the initial question about church wowing you. Maybe it’s because we are searching for a church in our new hometown (and loving it because there are churches EVERYWHERE here) that this has struck me. It can be hard to not go into church with the what’s in it for me/shopper attitude, but as we search I’ve been struck by how much God doesn’t want this to be my attitude. I’ve felt convicted to make the words of each praise song to be my personal prayer to God and to mean each word uttered in my heart. I’ve prayed during the sermons for God to show me where I need to grow, learn, repent, or listen. Despite not knowing anyone in most places, I’m still asking God how He can use me that day.

    It’s not about sitting back and waiting to be wowed like I’m at a concert or show or rally. It’s about seeking God and asking Him to use me, teach me and let me be His hands. I want to be wowed by His Word, not the delivery. I want to wowed by the words I choose to praise my savior with not that the music was recording quality. I want to be wowed by Him choosing to use me…and maybe I need to give this person the benefit of the doubt and this too is what their heart was crying out for.

  3. This is such a beautiful analogy. Our church is currently in transition (trying to find a new teaching pastor) and it’s been a bumpy process (almost 2 years). My husband and I are wondering what’s ahead for our church and whether the Lord will be calling us elsewhere, which is a painful thought as I quite literally grew-up in our church. Either way, you have articulated so clearly what really matters in a church body. Thank you!

    Also, as an ex-wannabe ballerina, I found your analogy to be particularly en pointe ;).

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