Dance with me, I want to be your partner.
– Orleans, Dance With Me
A confession: I don’t dance very well.
Correction. I don’t dance. Period.
Its not my fault, really. I grew up in a very conservative church environment where dancing was forbidden. You can call it a defect in my particular faith genome, if you like. But dancing just isn’t something I can do. (I’m not sure I missed that much anyway – after all, I came of age in the eighties…)
The same isn’t true for my children. My oldest daughter is a very talented classical dancer, and my second youngest is becoming quite graceful at lyrical dance. But as for me, I am a pretty good musician, but not much of a dancer.
I love to watch people dance for the same reasons I admire great professional athletes – I can’t do it myself, so it amazes me to see people make it look so easy. Just once, I would love to be able to walk out on a dance floor and do a flashy tango with the Missus. But, since I can’t, I am stuck watching and admiring as other people do it.
There is, however, a difference between great athletes and great dancers. Athletes, for the most part, are good because of things they can do on their own, but a part of the beauty of dance is the way the participants work together to create something more spectacular than anything that could be achieved by individual efforts.
Don’t get me wrong: a solo dance can be beautiful in and of itself – but it is when a couple, or even a group, begin to dance together that the art of dance becomes truly breathtaking.
I’ve been thinking about dancing lately. There is a technique to it, to be sure. The countless hours that my daughters have spent learning those techniques (and the countless dollars I’ve spent on their lessons!) is tesimony to that. But, when the participants are accomplished, the act of dancing is much more than rigid movements to a beat, like a marching band. It becomes a thing of beauty. One person leads, another follows. And the follower, while reflecting the movements of her lead, is still responding to those movements in her own unique way.
Here is what I’ve been wondering: could Christian spirituality be like dancing?
All Christians believe – in one sense or another – that God wants to be in relationship with us. But, as I pointed out in the last post, much of the terminology that believers use to describe that relationship is very rigid and mechanical. We think of God, for example, as a cosmic accountant who keeps books which contain records of our sins. In this way of thinking, our problem is a matter of needing a cosmic-sized transaction to put our books back into balance. I know that there is supposed to be this sense of gratefulness for what God has done in that transaction. But sometimes, when I hear people using the language of sin accounting and sin management, it feels more like – when all is said and done – we should shake hands and tell God we were glad we could do business.
I don’t believe – based on what I have seen in scripture – that God’s intentions toward us are simply a matter of getting a sin-imbalance problem solved so everyone has that good, nerdy sense that God’s cosmic ledger is in order, like when I get my checkbook balanced. God seems to want something more.
Instead, I think that our relationship with God is supposed to be something that is beautiful. I think that what God ultimately wants is to experience that beauty – to enjoy, to love, to revel in the creatures that he made. I think that God also wants that experience for our sakes – he wants us to know what it means to become the creation that we were intended to be.
During the next few posts, I want to explore the idea of what it means to escape the ridgidity of relationships that are goverened by mechanics – numbers, rules, and this-for-that agreements. I want to understand what it means not just to obey and comply, but to be set free – to become something surprising, unique and glorious.
I may never be able to waltz or tango or salsa. But I want to learn to dance with God.