Dust off Your Bible… and Your Dancing Shoes! (Permission to Feel Again)

And, after dusting off your Bible and dancing shoes, why not practice ‘feeling’ again? (How can you dance, if you cannot feel the music?) How long has it been? A week… a month… a year? Maybe a life-time ago, since you decided to stop feeling all that pain …that it is easier to shut down your heart, and feel nothing, than to experience that raw encounter with your own mind and heart?

There is no strength in shutting down. I know. I did it for a long time, just to survive. And I learned that denial is not the path of greater courage; it is the path of defeat. It takes courage to walk through the pain and grief that are inevitably part of human experience. We all suffer. The difference lies in facing pain courageously, or pretending it doesn’t exist.

Personally, I vote to bring the Wailing Wall back. We have become so cultured that at a time when weeping loudly, wailing, and crying out would be most appropriate, we sit stoically, straightening our collars, pressing imaginary wrinkles from our skirts and tucking every hair in place, willing ourselves not to experience reality. And then we label it ‘self-control’ and slap the word ‘biblical’ on it because, well, the Bible does talk about temperance.

Yes, yes it does. It talks about temperance and doing all things decently and in order. And I would say that it might be ‘in order’ to fall apart, now and then. King David, a great man to whom a country looked for guidance, was a mess before God (and the people) on more than one occasion. After seeing his own sin and losing his ‘love-child’ because of that sin, he grieved before God.  Job sat in a state of depression (for how long?) after he lost everything that mattered to him, except his own soul and his God, and a few miserable friends. Both great men. Yet, both would be judged ruthlessly in today’s society… and church.

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How did we get to this image-based-performance way of doing life? God gave us feelings, emotions and the resilience to get through the ‘dark hell’ of life. It is in that darkness, often, and in those times of deep feeling, where we discover the love and faithfulness of God in ways that no stoic performance can offer. Keeping it together appeases the people around us so that they can be comfortable in our grieving and our pain. God forbid that they should awaken and begin to feel their own things, because of our inability to present that image. But what if the anger, frustration or disdain they feel for us is something God wants to break through? What if the pain they hide is the pain they need to feel before they can go deeper? And what if the way for them to experience these encounters is through our vulnerability?

Jeremiah 31 tells the journey to dancing and living with joy, from a place of bondage and loss of identity. The journey begins where many are content to stay, with survival. But, staying stuck in survival prevents us from discovering grace and rest:

2 The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness…
when I went to give him rest…”

But God’s love draws us into a place of newness, of hope, of being rebuilt:

3 The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;

Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt …”

God doesn’t rebuild in some haphazard, ramshackle, ‘good luck’ kind of way. No, He restores us to that wholeness for which He initially designed and created us. He tells it, using virginity as the symbolism. And we all know, when virginity is lost, it is gone, physically. And yet God… 

 …I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt…O virgin of Israel!

He promises, having restored and rebuilt and seeing us as though we never lost the purity and innocence of relationship with Him, He will take us further. “Dust off you dancing shoes,” He says, “and get dressed up. Grab your musical instruments! You’ve got some rejoicing to do! Sing with gladness! Shout! Proclaim, give praise and say, O Lord, save Your people!” (v 6b-7 paraphrased)


And all of this He says to His people who are in a place of captivity, still waiting for deliverance. They have nothing but His promises and commands to go on. In their bondage, He tells them to give praise and cry out “O Lord, save Your people!” (This isn’t the ‘after party’ to celebrate freedom! It is the ‘claiming of a promise’ and trusting God, our Heavenly Papa, to fulfill it!)

And then He says how He will deliver, and it sounds a little less ‘pretty’ and ‘together’. They will come from every part of the earth, including women ‘with child‘ and those in labour with children. A great throng will come; among them the blind and the lame–those who have a difficult time seeing the way, and struggling to get ahead. Those are the ones God will rebuild and heal! (Verse 8 paraphrased)

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Oh the messy walk with God, to places He longs to lead us into!

“9 They shall come with weeping...”

And there, in broken places, God leads them with supplication, pleading earnestly for them to press on. Picture our Heavenly Papa, on His knees, gently encouraging the lame struggling to walk, the blind hardly able to grasp truth, the weary pregnant, vulnerable ones,  “You’re going to make it… follow me… there’s a straight path here… trust me… I’ve got you and won’t let you stumble!”

And why does He do this? Ah, my friends, because He is a “Papa!” Like that first time daddy, amazed and intrigued, crazy in love with a first born child…. That’s a daddy heart I trust!

“...For I am a Father …!” 


~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

7 thoughts on “Dust off Your Bible… and Your Dancing Shoes! (Permission to Feel Again)

  1. Ava April 12, 2015 / 12:32 am

    I LOVE this, Trudy!

    Those women with child and in labor – they are like us humans carrying new hope and life within us. You said it perfectly – it’s hard to dance when you can’t feel the music. It’s hard to dance when you’re carrying the weight of years’ worth of pain in your heart. The labor for that new life to be born requires facing and feeling the stuffed feelings. Writhing with the pain and agony of doing that excruciating work. Then the glorious delight of getting through it!

    The Christian church has done a horrible disservice to its people in not teaching its people to use the good gift of honest verbal grieving both David and Jesus model so eloquently.

    Have you read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero? Marvelous insight on how to live wholly spiritually and emotionally.

    • Trudy Metzger April 12, 2015 / 12:50 am

      Thank you Ava! I like how you put words to the ‘women with child and in labour’ part of this passage. My mind was still toying with it, and how to put into words what I was seeing. You’ve done it well, and given it the ‘substance’ I was not yet able to. Thank you for that.

      I have not read that book… or even heard of it before, for that matter. I will need to check it out. Like many in churches–and dare I add, in society in general–I was raised to not experience emotions. The good ones were okay, in moderation and if controlled, but the bad ones were not allowed. So to witness a great deal of emotion is not always comfortable for me, and certainly to show it isn’t, but working through the past has taught me to go there, and allow the Holy Spirit to meet me there and heal me. And it is the examples of ‘raw grief’ in scripture that have showed me the importance of daring to feel. And now to go look up that book… (Thank you for that recommendation.)

  2. Ava April 12, 2015 / 5:45 pm

    Your discomfort in witnessing/expressing emotion and why is a very intriguing point. Often as children we are told to stop crying when punished. Or to not be angry/upset when something distressing happens, which teaches us early in life that it’s not safe and/or acceptable to express negative feelings. The very feelings that God actually gave us as tools for navigating life well, when used appropriately. It takes a long time to unlearn those implanted “truths” from both our minds and our hearts.

    “How People Grow” by Cloud and Townsend has excellent insight on how grieving and tears are God’s design for us to heal. That we can’t move on from life’s pain until we do. (In early times, professional mourners were hired when people died to help the family grieve.)

    I think this design of God is why telling our story is needed for our healing to happen. One’s story has to be brought into light and acknowledged before he/she can grieve it. Otherwise it festers in our hearts and constantly leaks out in various ways – some ways that can even appear positive on the surface. Some people who stuff feelings have repeated health problems. Since all aspects of our bodies are interrelated, if pain/stress is not dealt with, our bodies and/or minds, or both, will suffer great harm. A reason why our bodies remember is because stress produces toxins in our bodies. Tears are actually one way God designed for toxins to be removed. (Tears from grief/stress contain different chemicals than do “onion” tears! “Having a good cry” is a reality because you do feel better after ridding your body of toxins.) Massage, exercise, work, etc. are ways to remove the toxins. (Know any workaholics?) But all those just are just ways people deal with the symptoms of inner grief that will continue producing toxins until dealt with.

    You’re right that an element of society takes the same approach to feelings as the church does. And then there’s the opposite extreme that takes the feeling thing to an extreme where it’s all about feelings and God is left totally out of it. That’s equally harmful and gives the “suck it up” and “give it all to Jesus and be happy” camps fuel for their contempt of “wallowing in feelings.” Thankfully God gives us Job, David, and Jesus for clear models of His design for us to deal with life’s suffering.

  3. Trudy Metzger April 14, 2015 / 10:40 am

    Well said, Ava. Thank you! And thank you for another book recommendation. These are great resources and hopefully readers experiencing this struggle will find them helpful. 🙂

    In my work with clients, one of the most exciting things is watching them come alive, emotionally. The person who expresses no feeling or emotion–not even in body language–who eventually gets a little ‘fire in the eyes’ or expresses that inner anger, angst, pain, and eventually joy… That’s something to celebrate. I’ll never forget one client telling me she feels no anger. Never has. Several sessions later she stood up and raised her voice and got angry. I was thrilled! She had come alive, and we had something to work with. But when that deadness is there, emotionally, I often think of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel. The spirit and soul of mankind are so intertwined when the life is snuffed out of the soul, the spirit has nothing to draw from, and the other way around. We need to live fully, in ever part of our being, to experience God fully, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth… not only in truth.

  4. Ava April 15, 2015 / 10:05 am

    Oh Trudy! I never ever made that connection between that verse and our emotions! That adds way more down to earth practical meaning to that verse than I ever dreamed. (I found that John Piper interprets it the same, btw.) That verse has taken on a whole new life for me. What a marvelous insight!

  5. Trudy Metzger April 15, 2015 / 10:02 pm

    I didn’t, for years, and I presume it could mean many things. But it definitely refers to ‘life’ versus ‘deadness’ and if we are emotionally ‘dead’, we certainly need God to breathe His life into us. And that is one of my favourite thoughts… that God’s Spirit would blow on us, and bring us back to life!

    • Brenda May 17, 2015 / 8:53 pm

      Thank you and thank you for this April 10 article! I’ve read and reread it as it helps so much. My mother died last October after suffering tremendously from sino -nasal cancer. Plus 2014 included 3 other really big hard and longstanding challenges which the Lord is walking me graciously through. However I’d a rash for several months this winter and continued joint issues. My therapist thinks it’s my body grieving. Only problem is that my culture is not ok with grieving. And I don’t know how. My heart just feels sad at the losses. And when I pray and journal I certainly don’t pretend to God. So thank you very much for sharing!

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