Mud, Fun, and Worship

Mud, Fun, and Worship

By Patricia Knight

One drenching rainy day in the summertime our toddler son teased to play outside. Finally I relented and dressed him in his long rubber-coated pants, his rain jacket, hood, and boots, wondering if he could possibly move in such restrictive clothing.

Never underestimate the will of a toddler! Our son possessed the tenacious energy of most children his age. He grabbed his bicycle and rode it the length of our driveway, braking abruptly before reaching his boundary. In the narrow strip of land dividing adjoining house lots, a large, shallow mud puddle had formed. It was at that spot where he parked his bicycle with the training wheels straddling the murky circle.

He hopped onto the bicycle seat, then leaned his body forward into a horse jockey’s riding position, and peddled with all the muscle power his little legs could amass. His frantic peddling produced a cascading arc of thick mud, slathering slime all over his body like a spouting geyser. My little boy had been transformed into a chocolate Easter bunny replica, with only his white teeth exposed through a wide, satisfied grin. He was immersed in childhood ecstasy, and enjoyed sitting at the center of a mud blizzard, loving every minute of the onslaught.  

It is no surprise that Jesus instructed us to maintain child-like faith in Him. When His disciples assumed that little children encircling Jesus were usurping their Master’s limited time, He reminded them of the value of all children: “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Children naturally know how to laugh and play with unprecedented joy as they explore the wonders of their surroundings. Verbal squealing reveals their delirious delight, as they express bubbly glee with each new discovery. Almighty God, whose glory and authority remains on display throughout heaven and earth, gladly accepts the exalted praise of playful children.

Centuries ago, when a remnant of God’s people returned from a seventy-year exile in Babylon, their long separation from everything familiar left them with spiritual apathy reflected in disobedience, doubt, and disdain for the worship of their Lord. God assigned His prophet, Malachi, the task of confronting the Israelites with their sins and guiding them into a renewed enthusiastic, committed relationship with their heavenly Father.

And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Utilizing a vivid mental picture of frisky, frolicking animals released from the confinement of an enclosed pen, Malachi attempted to instill renewed passion, eagerness, and exhilaration into his countrymen’s lifestyle and worship.

2 Samuel 6:1-22 provides a graphic description of King David vivaciously dancing in the street. It was no ordinary occasion. Years earlier, the ark of God, the physical representation of God’s presence in Israelite worship, had been confiscated by their enemies, the Philistines. When King David located the ark, he immediately arranged for it to be reclaimed and transported to the temple. As the ark was ceremoniously carried through the streets of Jerusalem, David could no longer contain his excitement.  With grateful animation, “he danced before the Lord with all of his might while he and the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets” (2 Samuel  6:14-15).

King David jubilantly offered a spontaneous gesture of praise to his gracious Lord when he performed his solo dance. Because God knows the intent of our hearts, it is apparent He approved of the King’s unapologetic zeal in celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant, a constant reminder that God resided in their midst, encouraging a zealous expression of worship. David’s impetuous dance must have resembled the unpenned calves’ leap of joy in Malachi 4:2.

David’s wife, Michal, criticized what she considered an immoral act, calling her husband vulgar. David responded, “‘In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! I’ll dance to God’s glory more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll gladly look the fool…I’ll be honored to the end’” (2 Samuel 6:20-22, The Msg.) Michal was a sourpuss, and like her father, King Saul, a victim of jealousy and bitterness. She represented the opposite attitude of her husband, King David, who defended his courageous dance of ecstasy to honor the return of the ark of God.

Contrary to the world’s view of Christianity as a negative religion consisting primarily of “thou shalt not” regulations, there exists undeniable freedom in following Jesus. Christ himself said, “‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, KJV). It is God’s plan that His children live an unsurpassed, fullness of life secured by Jesus at Calvary.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea abound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy” (Psalm 96:11-12). Is there any reason we should not join all of creation in praise to our Creator?

Perhaps a playful mud bath, kicking up your heels, or dancing in a street parade offend your worship preferences. If so, contemplate approaches to glorify Jesus with heartfelt jubilation. Or follow the example of my friend who surprised me by answering my recent phone call not with a typical “hello” greeting, but by belting out the Hallelujah chorus, an unequivocal reminder for both of us to praise God for an extravagant, abundant life.

May we join the Psalmist expressing exultation for God’s rich blessings!

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart.
I’m writing the book on your wonders.
I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy;
I’m singing your song, High God”
(Psalm 9:1-2,The Msg.).

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