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Text Illustrations
Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli


Mike tells of sitting in a hotel ballroom with fifteen hundred college students participating in a weekend faith conference. On the last day of the conference, with school starting the following Monday, the students made it clear they wanted to prolong the conference as long as possible. They wanted to party, to dance the afternoon away, to celebrate the Lord of the Dance, to resist going back to the busyness and demands of college life. The morning general session turned into a spontaneous celebration. Young men and women raised their hands, stood on chairs, shouted, cried, and laughed, and suddenly a conga line broke out. Within seconds, hundreds of college students were weaving in and out of the room in long lines praising God.


An older man with cerebral palsy sat in a motorized wheelchair, watching everyone else party. (He wasn’t a college student) I was seated next to him, watching the students celebrate, when suddenly the wheelchair lunged into the celebration. The man’s arms waved, his chair careened around the room with a jerky, captivating motion, hi mouth struggled open and shut making incomprehensible sounds. Somehow a man who couldn’t dance had become part of the graceful dancing of the crowd. Without warning, his motorize wheelchair lurched to the base of the stage, racing back and forth through a series of figure eights, twirls and circles. He was laughing, lost in the joy of the Lord. His joy had taken a cold, ugly piece of motorized machinery and transformed it into an extension of his unconfined worship. He and his wheelchair had become a dancing, living thing. This man with a crippled body found a way to dance the undanceable.



This man was doing what most of us would love to do, in the deep recesses of our souls. We would love to leave the pretense of a cold sterile religion, and exchange it for a faith that is alive and inviting, where the unwelcome receive welcome, the unqualified get qualified. I see a place where Jesus invites us to the dance, where he walks up to the messiest person and whispers in his or her ear ‘you are special, do you want to dance?’