It started with the clanking of the beach chairs on our back. Our beach chairs have straps so that you can wear them like a backpack. This is a prime example of function over fashion. Mr. Engineer and I tried to hold hands as we walked down the sandy sidewalks of Siesta Key beach but our chairs kept slamming into one another, so after a few laughs, we let go.
Above the racket of our beach chairs, we followed the sounds of drums out onto the board walk to meet Mr. Engineer’s grandparents at the drum circle. Locals were gathering with their drums around a grand circle drawn in the sand. People staked out their spot with beach chairs and blankets while others with salt soaked hair paused to look with curiosity at the growing crowd.
There were all kinds of kinds. Belly dancers with their jingling sarongs. Children interested in nothing more than the hula hoops and butterfly wing capes that were available. A woman passing out free flowers. A man juggling sticks. And all the while the drums grew louder and faster and more enthusiastic. People looked on, tapping their feet, people gathered in the center of the circle to dance and feel the rhythm.
I tend to stare. I find people fascinating and Mr. Engineer used to be taken aback by my purely unashamed stares at people who I found interesting. Now he only laughs and shakes his head. As I sat around the circle I fell in love with these free spirits who seemed to have a need to feel everything. I could feel vibrations leaving me wondering if it was my heart or the pounding beat. The breeze from the ocean was blowing my hair into my face. The laughter and smiles of the shier dancers, as they lay their inhibitions outside the circle. There was no judgment, only pure delight and freedom.
I didn’t notice until halfway through the ceremony that there were two men with enormous red signs standing a little ways outside the circle. They seemed to be protesting the event, although you couldn’t hear their words over the fast paced drums. The signs read, “WARNING!” And had a list of people such as porn freaks and potty mouths who were headed straight for hell. The condemnation was clear. The disapproval was glaring. My heart dropped when I saw this.
The ceremony may have been some type of sun worship, but what I saw were people who were longing for freedom and meaning. People who were finding joy in movement and music. And I was thinking how beautiful it would be if more Christians found joy in movement and freedom to dance; who were unashamed of the Gospel.
The words I had read in Wild in the Hollow earlier that day, as sand was creeping onto the pages and seagulls were flying overhead, came back to me,
“I see now that using any doctrine like a harness to keep a moral upper hand on the world is corrupt. Jesus didn’t come to modify the behavior of the church. He came to set her free. He came to be the way straight to the mercy seat of God. He didn’t come to bring us the Bible, though that’s often how we live. He came to establish a kingdom and his righteousness by his own Spirit in our transformed lives. Too often we’re prone to the worship the Good Book, as perfectly true as those words may be.”
I thought how much more good could be done if we took time to talk to those in the crowd and got to know their story. What if we could find the common ground like Paul so often did in Acts when speaking to the gentiles? Because my God created that beautiful sun that was sinking low into the ocean. He paints it each night, out of his own wild, wide imagination, and we are the lucky ones that get to witness its beauty. Our common ground could be the Creator instead of the sun. The sun is magnificent, but there is One greater. His love is unchanging and unending for His children.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.