From Leah Knowles
I am writing on 2 Samuel, Chapter 6, which follows the movement of the Ark of the Covenant, overseen by King David.
David’s lack of self-consciousness in front of the people as he danced undignified before the Lord is quite a picture to imagine, especially for someone in a position of leadership. When criticized for his impropriety, David responds, “It was before the Lord… I will celebrate before the Lord.” No apologies or shame—in fact, he essentially promises it will happen again.
In my experience in the church, I have found it to be a very social experience. We come together every week to worship corporately together and there is power as the Holy Spirit comes among us.
But we are also human, and humans tend to be self-centered and self-conscious in social settings. I confess when I was young I cared quite a bit about how I was perceived as I worshipped (especially growing up singing in worship bands). I watched others and mirrored their behavior. I sought to find that perfect balance of passion and piety, but always cool and slightly disinterested.
I also attended some charismatic churches where parishioners loved this passage and sought to dance as undignified as possible during worship. While I wouldn’t presume to know what was on their hearts, I would guess that sometimes their motivation was still focused more on the people around them instead of on God. Whether you would be perceived as stoic in your worship or undignified like King David, the point is whose perspective matters most.
In the fleeting moments I feel that God’s perspective is all that matters, I have felt tremendous freedom. Abandoning our dignity and self-consciousness frees us to focus our efforts upward toward God and outward toward others. I pray that no matter how we are perceived when we praise God, we would be given the freedom to forget ourselves and remember to whom we are to give all glory.
I am married to Ryan, mother to Aurelia, and assistant to a few professors at the Harvard Kennedy School.