Today you get to hear from Erin Lane, who became my friend the first year we lived in San Francisco. Chris and I had a good nine months of hanging out with Erin and her husband before they left for the other coast, where Erin began seminary at Duke. Since then, I read everything she writes at Holy Hellions. Reading her words is not the same as hanging out with her, though. I miss this lady. And I’m glad you get to experience why.
My saints go not by the names of Peter, Paul, or even Mary. Their names are pluckier like Florence, Regina, or even Robyn – with a “y.” They have hair the color of crayons, lips like fish, and are equally translucent in high heels and a sequined gown as they are in high tops and a mohair sweater. These female vocalists are my soundtrack. And they make me want to dance like a fool.
Introverted and analytical, I have trouble getting around my own thoughts. My prayers too easily become clogged in the corridor between my head and my heart. Rarely do they settle in my gut where they can bathe in the passion of bile.
Meditative walks and yoga offer some relief to the clutter of my anxieties, but they do more to keep my spirit serene rather than unleashed. It’s only when I come unhinged through dancing that I feel the Spirit wiggles its way through all of me.
Dancing sounds too delicate a word for the kind of jerky movements by which my body moves. It is flagrant flailing. Unabashed absurdity. Downright dorky. Think of a Jane Fonda workout video crossed with Elaine (thumbs and all) from Seinfield. It is this kind of dancing that makes me feel higher than the angels.
I begin in my dining room with the table and chairs and refurbished church pew pushed to one side of the room. My husband has already gone to work and I am glad for the privacy. Pajamas are my costume of choice; braless with an elastic waist. I hook-up the iPod and choose a track from one of my many volumes of Femme Bonds – a compilation of poppy female singers I send to my college girlfriends each Christmas. This music connects me to not only self and Spirit but also to these soul sisters, however saccharine that sounds. I turn the old-fashioned knob on our stereo to the right and wait for the music to begin.
This morning I have chosen the Swedish artist Robyn and her single “Call Your Girlfriend.” (Watching the music video for the song alone is a spiritual experience; I dare you to spot her electric slide without grinning.) The techno beat startles my dog, Amelia, in the adjoining room. I begin stomping my foot on the hardwood floors and look at her deadpanned. “Prude,” I say aloud and then laugh to myself. When I dance I am not beautiful or good. I am funny, and somehow this seems like the quality of mine that gives God the most pleasure. The lyrics begin: “Call your girlfriend. It’s time you had the talk. Give your reasons. Say it’s not her fault. But you just met somebody new.”I pretend that I am singing about God. God is my girlfriend. And I’m calling her up to say that I have found someone new, a God who is no longer hardened in the mold of an imitation-action figure but the living, breathing, dancing God-on-the-move of Scriptures. This is the God who enamors me when I am burnt out by piety, bored sick by contemplation, and berating myself for complacency. I thrash my legs out in front of me like I’m in a marching band. I pump my fists in the air like I’m at a football game. I may even do the “maniac” moves I learned from a childhood spent watching Flashdance.
Music like this reminds me that life can be light or grave but it is always buoyant in the Spirit. Songstress Regina Spektor swears “God can be funny.” The band Florence + the Machine instructs “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back so shake him off.” I take these singer saints to heart and trust that my foolish, childlike, and desperate dance moves reveal something of the God who set them into motion.
I am sweating and bent over at the waist doing the monkey arm sway when Robyn sings her last refrain. “But you just met somebody new. And now it’s gonna be me and you.”
I look at the ceiling and give God one of those double fist pumps to the chest, before kissing my fist and pointing to the sky. “Me and you this morning. Just me and you, God,” I say laughing and crying and praying all the same.
And then I press repeat and find my God in the beat all over again.
Erin Lane is a freelance communication strategist for faith-based authors and organizations. She received her Masters in Theological Studies from Duke Divinity with a focus in gender, ministry, and theology. Confirmed Catholic, raised Charismatic, and married to a Methodist, she blogs about the intersection of her faith and feminism at www.holyhellions.com. She lives (and dances) in Durham, NC.