A word synonymous with honorable.
To be dignified, demands respect.
And certainly if you are dignified in your demeanor, you deserve respect.
But I wonder, are there ever moments when it is appropriate to be "undignified"?
Every morning I rise at 7am to begin the day with my children. After the school kids board the bus, I am left alone in a world which lacks dignity and appropriate demeanor. I am left in the world of the rambunctious, messy, rowdy preschool boy. My house at approximately 9:30am is nowhere fit for entertaining but rather fit for condemnation if you take into account the scattered pop tart crumbs, dirty socks, and discarded toys that consume the house from the front door to the kitchen. Combine the cluttered house with my cluttered appearance in the morning hours and the last two words used to describe this muddled mommy would be elegance and dignity. And yet, I would argue that those two things are of significant unimportance to my two preschool boys. In fact, they hardly notice the difference. It is one arena in my life where the pursuit of dignity is worthless.
It seems that most people place an enormous amount of weight on their appearance and the way they are perceived by others, especially in the context of religion and church. But does God?
Of course I am not considering that we run around as disrespectful as we please, but rather that we reconsider our traditional actions and call into question our motives. Are we aiming to please God, or people? Are we aiming to please our Savior or are we only concerned with the kind of self gratification that comes from human respect?
I am a wild child, a little rough around the edges. I am sort of anti-traditionalist and have already publicly admitted that I may not be as conservative as some may think or wish me to be. But lay those things aside and consider with me for a moment, how liberating it would be to become a little undignified. That is what King David did in 2 Samuel, chapter six.
David was a bit of a wild child himself. He was a man of impulse and desire. He picked up a sling shot without a second thought and won a war! But he also picked up another man's wife in the midst of a war. He was by no means perfect but he loved the Lord immeasurably. He wrote entire songs dedicated to his passion for his God, asking for forgiveness, and rejoicing in the restoration of a loving Father. David is a pretty incredible Biblical character. A man certainly worthy of respect. A man who had bouts of dignity and honorable behavior. But he could also be a little "irreverent". And that's the part of him that I have always liked the most. Go figure. The wild child finds another wild child to be intriguing!
In 2 Samuel, David gets into a little trouble with one of Saul's daughters because of some behavior that she deemed to be "out of place". The ark of God was on it's way into the city and David was excited. So excited, in fact, that he had begun to dance. Apparently he danced so much that he lost some clothes. That is some hardcore dancing! He wasn't dancing for his own enjoyment or to seduce the people around, but rather out of pure and unashamed joy for what he was bearing witness to at that moment. He was a part of something huge, a part of something that God was doing and David was enthusiastic! Later that day when someone brought to his attention the "inappropriate" behavior, his response was hysterical. He says in verses 21 and 22 "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this". When I read that, I felt an instant connection with my Biblical brother. He is moved to action before his God and he reacts not to the pleasure or permission of others but to satisfy and please his Heavenly Father.
We live in a world of expectations. At age 16, most kids expect that they will be given a car. Upon graduation, most adults expect that students should know what they want with their lives. At the beginning of marriage there is an expectation for future children, buying a house, securing a successful career. As a mother, there is an expectation of a perfect household , martha stewart-esque cooking, and supreme school and sports involvement. My own children have certain expectations. They expect that every time I leave the house without them in tow, that I must return with a "surprise". They expect that just because they have discarded their dirty socks all over God's creation that I will be able to locate, wash, dry, and fold those rapidly disappearing articles of clothing. Expectations are good, but sometimes expectations lead us nowhere but to disappointment.
The danger is when our expectation turns from Godly guidance and scripture based direction to human desires and wants. Certainly it should be expected of Christians to carry themselves with self-control, respect, kindness, and gentleness. These sort of expectations are not leading us to destruction.
But when and where did the expectation of silence and disregard come from?
The society that we live in is gradually promoting tolerance of everything but Christianity and we are expected to be silent. In the church, there seems to be a promotion of passionless faith and we are expected to disregard feelings of joy and excitement. We have effectively become a bunch of mute pew-dwellers.
Throw out the dignity for a moment and get a little undignified.
Stand up for what you believe in.
Shout an "Amen" when it stirs.
Dance a little.
Live a little.
Stop putting God inside your cultural and traditional "straight jacket" and allow Him to move in your life and community.
There is nothing wrong with a little mess. I am not suggesting that we sin whenever we want and expect continued grace. No, I am suggesting that we devote our lives to holy and unashamed living and every now and then deciding that it's "okay" to do something a little different, a little out of the ordinary, a little "undignified".
My boys wake up every morning knowing that by the end of the day their mommy will have cleaned up after them and made them somewhat presentable for human viewing. They are doing nothing wrong by enjoying their time at home. They are not being "bad" by pulling out every toy they own. They are living. They are enjoying what it means to be three and one. We have made some things out to be "bad", when they aren't; things like openly worshipping, doing something against tradition, trying something "new" in ministry. These things are not bad, they are part of living, part of what it means to be a born again radical believer in Christ.
I enjoy being a Christian. It is a part of who I am and who I am is quite radical and at times quite undignified.
Are you living your spiritual life for the expectations of others are you living it for your Savior?
Are you holding back because you are afraid of what others may think?
Are you resisting the impulses of the Holy Spirit, because you might get a strange look from the your fellow pew dweller?
Are you staying rooted to the pew for fear that you might "mess up" or do something that is considered wrong or different?
Get a little undignified.
It's fun. And eternally worth it.
Don't sin, don't disregard God's Word.... but instead LIVE for it, obey it completely, and in Jesus' name do something out of the ordinary, do something a little undignified!