Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dancing with God

Several years ago, my husband and I took ballroom dance lessons for about a year.   When we went initially to see how we would like it, it was very awkward—VERY awkward.  I didn't know how to follow, and he didn't know how to lead.  While some people may come by these roles naturally and are more comfortable with them, it was a completely new learning experience for us.  One that was beneficial to both of us.

It wasn't just a matter of learning which foot you step off on or which way you turn, it was more nuanced than that.  It started with verbal cues—talking to one another to accomplish the steps—and exaggerated movements.  Then we learned to give and receive the subtle cues to our partner.  On his part, the slight pressure of his fingertips on my waist or his guiding hand holding mine.  On my part, the cues were more of flexibility or an openness to move wherever he wanted to lead me--not my strong suit.  I tended to want to anticipate his moves or to start moving where I thought we were going, but it didn't work out so well, because that just isn't the way dancing works.

But as we began to regularly practice dancing together, we began to understand these subtle cues, and we began to know, really know, our partner.  After much practice, you realize it isn’t difficult anymore.  In fact, it almost seems like second nature—like you have been dancing together forever.  You may still have moments of misstep, but you can recover more quickly, and it is less frustrating.

When you get out of practice of dancing with your partner, you may find that it is awkward at first, but with a little practice it once again becomes the fluid movement that is the dance.

I think back with fondness on that year of dancing weekly.  We do not keep it up anymore, but it was a worthwhile experience to have even if for a short time.  I find that this time in our lives taught us about following and leading at times other than on the dance floor as well.  We both learned how to be sensitive to the less obvious clues your partner gives you and to quit being so obtuse.  It also translated into other areas of our lives, and in my case, my ministry.

In my ministry, people have told me that they do not know how to listen for God, or that they never know what God wants for them, they are frustrated.  They desire to be in a relationship with God, but feel that God is far away.  It seems that the relationship they describe is a lot of talk talk talk on their end, but not enough listening for the still small voice.  And when you don't listen, you think you are hearing silence--it feels lonely.  Some even have remarked that they feel that God has abandoned them.  When I ask the question (and I usually ask) "what is God telling you," I get blank expressions.  The look says, "Didn't I just say God is telling me nothing?"  However, it is important that I ask the question, which implies that I know God is telling them something, they just haven't figured out what it is yet.

It reminds me of our dance lessons.  We are in a dance with God--God leads and we follow.  But many of us have not learned how to follow.  We want to rush right into leading, or to anticipate God's direction, or to give God our instructions, but that never works out too well, because anticipating or running ahead is not following.  Dancing with God means you are intentional in deciding to follow.  It means you practice regularly and diligently until you are one with your partner.  It means you give up the struggle to lead and enjoy following.

Enjoy the dance with God.

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