The lights turned off and the room went pitch black. There was not even the glow of dim lights marking a path to our seats or to the exit doors. The show was about to start.
We had planned for this moment. We would leave promptly after dinner and arrive as soon as the doors opened for the best seats available - front and center, behind VIP seats. Coming this early would mean that for the next 45 minutes we would wait. We would watch streams of people enter the theatre, they too, looking for the best view. And every five minutes, we would tune out the prerecorded announcement informing the audience that due to the nature of the show, the theatre would go dark, the doors would remain closed, and exiting during the performance would be ill advised. It would all be worth it.
We had seen something similar on TV, a light-up dance group on the competition show, America’s Got Talent and were excited. Finally, the room became quiet. The excitement in the room was palpable. And while the darkness felt unpleasant and unsettling, we were willing to bare it for a few more seconds.
Soft stage lights turned on along with stage smoke. A man dressed in dark clothing, neon colored chain hanging from his thick neck, and an electric guitar strapped around his broad body appeared. Another man, thinner, also in shades of black took his place behind the drum set. A third person joined. This time it was a woman in white leotards and white chiffon scarf that must have been at least 15 feet long. She took center stage. Fans blew in her direction as she swayed, spun, flexed, and tossed her body and the fabric with her.
I am not a dance connoisseur so while, I’m sure, there is something to be said about the artistry behind the modern choreography, the combination of these elements - the two man band, the dancer and her arousing movements, the special effects, the dark room - created the most unsettling feeling.
We are in Cancun on family vacation. This was supposed to be family friendly entertainment. I consented to being in a dark room for the entirety of the show because it was a light show. Now, my stomach was in knots. I felt trapped, shamed to stay, lied to, panicked, angry, and deeply saddened.
Why was the pre-show not mentioned?
Did the organizers think that a rock concert and a sensually erotic dance show was appropriate for an audience with children?
And, what messages about our bodies and the bodies of others are getting told and reinforced?
How many parents will follow-up with the their children about what they saw and felt?
What will I say to my daughters and how I will express my failure to protect their mind and heart?
I sat; crossed my legs then uncrossed them and repeated several more times; peered over to the far left and right of the room for the nearest exit; and screamed on the inside with protest.
We are created in the image of God and because of this, our lives hold dignity, honor, value, worth, beauty, freedom, and glory. When we fail to see ourselves and others including our bodies this way, we fail to see as God sees. Bodies are not meant for someone’s consumption then discarded, to be violated with projections of distorted and perverse fantasies, nor is it meant to be divorced from the personhood. Bodies embody the person and together, they are whole.
The struggle to engage both ourselves and others as image bearers will last as long as we are on this side of heaven and yet, the choices we make today set us up to know more clearly our identity and hear more clearly God’s love notes like in Zephaniah 3:17:
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
This December, I joined Dressember, a fundraising event combatting human trafficking and helping to restore faith, hope, and love in whose heart, soul, and mind it was stolen. For 31 days, I am wearing a dress in support of those doing the hard work in the front lines to end human trafficking and am standing with victims and survivors to say no, this is not okay. I am choosing a dress and each day that I do, I’m reminded that our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.