To Read: Click on song title to watch a video
from Billy Elliot
I can’t really explain it. I haven’t got the words
It’s a feeling that you can’t control
I suppose its like forgetting, losing who you are,
And at the same time, something makes you whole,
Its like that there’s a music, playing in your ear,
And I’m listening, and I’m listening, and then I disappear
And then I feel a change, like a fire deep inside
Something bursting me wide open, impossible to hide
And suddenly I’m flying, flying like a bird
Like electricity. Electricity
Sparks inside of me, and I’m free, I’m free
It’s a bit like being angry, It’s a bit like being scared,
Confused and all mixed up, and mad as hell,
It’s like when you’ve been crying, and you’re empty, and you’re full,
I don’t know what it is, It’s hard to tell,
It’s like that there’s some music, playing in your ear,
But the music, Is impossible, Impossible to hear,
But then I feel it move me, like a burning deep inside,
Something bursting me wide open. Impossible to hide
Then suddenly I’m flying…
From the Scriptures:
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
Romans 12.1-2 (JB Phillips Version)
If we are fortunate there come moments in the journey of faith that are akin to Billy Elliot’s ‘Electricity, sparks inside of me’. Times when we find freedom. A freedom won for us through our Beloved’s wearing of the Cross of Calvary.
Spiritual ecstasy is not a phenomenon of the Pentecostal churches of the 20th Century, nor even the preserve of Christianity alone amongst the world’s religions.
For some it comes with fervour and dance and singing in tongues and laughter, for others it comes with wonder-working and the bestowal of spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ, for yet others it comes with gentleness and the sense of assurance described by John Wesley when he recorded in his journal that he, ‘felt his heart strangely warmed.’[i]
For me, though the other forms of spiritual ‘Electricity’ are not unfamiliar to me, it is an experience similar to that of John Wesley in Aldersgate Street that first set my heart dancing. I was at the beginning of the the journey of trying to make sense of a vocation to become a priest and was on a retreat led by the Ivan Weiss, then Chaplain to the Archbishop of Cape Town. We were, for South Africa in the late 1970’s a very mixed (race and denomination) group of Christians and met at a Convent in the Cape Flats, an area reserved for people of mixed (white and black) racial heritage.
The General Confession, after an extended time of the Eucharist, was the moment when things changed for me for ever. Our group of a dozen or so had spent nearly an hour laying our hearts bare in front of each other. Weeping over our failings and supporting each other in our tears we seemed to finally come to the moment when Ivan could say for all of us:
Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in life eternal;
It was then that I felt a presence stand behind me, wrap His arms around me, and whisper gently into my ear words that settled deep into my soul, ‘Andrew, you are mine’.
What a way to hear the assurance of forgiveness! I didn’t stop smiling for a week and that night when I closed my eyes to go to sleep there were constellations of shooting stars on the back of my eyelids!
There have been other ‘Electricity, sparks inside of me’ moments in my life of many different sorts but none quite so bright and vivid as that time when my heart too, ‘was strangely warmed’. It was then I knew the truth of the prayer that the only place I would find perfect freedom would be in His service[ii]
Like Billy Elliot, this freedom to dance with our Beloved runs the whole gamut of emotions; losing control but feeling whole, empty yet full, angry and scared. These feelings are poured in to this dance that our Beloved invites us to join as we follow the choreography that has been written just for each of us. It is exhilarating yet also hard work. It calls us to new places of great joy but will cost us a leaving of old homes and expectations. It will mean that we must die a little so that we can be born anew. But once the electricity of God’s Holy Spirit has coursed through the veins of our soul we know we will only ever be free when we give in to the dance.
Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God,
as I go down into the deeps of my being.
Show me the hidden things,
the creatures of my dreams,
the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts.
Take me down to the spring of my life,
and tell me my nature and my name.
Give me freedom to grow,
so that I may become that self,
the seed of which you planted in me at my making.
Out of the deeps I cry to you, O God.
George Appleton, England
1) Do something different with your body today.
If you are blessed with a ‘busy’ body, give it a day free from activity.
If you are, like me, someone with a tendency to see the sofa as your homeroom, attempt a little more physical activity.
If you find movement of any kind difficult don’t struggle or fret but relax in the love of the One who came to us before we ever thought of turning towards Him.
2) Try to recall a moment of deep intimacy with God. Place yourself there again and wait for the Beloved to whisper in to your ear.
Encore: Click on song title to watch a video
In Billy Elliott there are two journeys to freedom. Billy’s escaping the expectations of his family into the world of dance and his friend Michael summing up enough bravery in a world full of homophobia to find his own identity. The song Expressing Yourself reminds us that one of our chief tasks is to grow into the person we are and not become someone other insist we must be.
Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018