Outward praise for God is not an easy practice for me. Most of my praise stays quietly locked in the thoughts and prayers in my head. In corporate worship, it comes out of my mouth in the spoken words of rote prayers and prescribed liturgy. I describe my praise as tamed and house-broken. Even when I feel the urge for some more visceral, full-bodied expression, I feel my inner trainer cry, “Sit, down, stay.” My arms rarely leave their vertical hangdown place at the side of my body.
Liturgical dance has provided one outlet for including my body in praise, but it has usually been planned and choreographed. I’m embarrassed by spontaneous bursts of gratitude and adoration that involve my arms leaving my side and flying above my head. It seems somehow unseemly or irrational to allow my soul stuff to be so naked.
Last week on the magnificent, rugged coast of Maine looking over the Atlantic Ocean, I felt one of those unbound, uncontrollable moments of praise creeping from my heart into my shoulders and rushing through my arms and fingers. I wish I could say I didn’t care what the three other people standing with me thought about my far flung arms. But I did. As much as I want to be a reckless lover of God, I don’t really want other people to know it. I covered up my uncomfortable posture by asking my husband to take a picture of me standing on the rocks.
I think I owe God an apology. “Forgive me, God, for being so stingy and so guarded with my emotions for you.” When I look at this picture, I know what I was feeling. When I look at the picture, the word orant comes to mind. An orant, according to Dictionary.com, is “a representation of a female figure, with outstretched arms and palms up in a gesture of prayer, in ancient and early Christian art.” I bet the early orants could have cared less what other people thought about their outstretched arms and their showy love of God.