What if we got it all wrong? What if the Christian journey isn’t supposed to be experienced as a sensible thing, like an accounting transaction? What if, instead, it is supposed to be embraced as something beautiful, like a dance?
What if the very nature of God is a dance unto itself?
When we talk about God, we don’t bundle the whole idea of who God is into a description of one person. Instead, we talk about him as if he is three people, all of whom are interrelated to each other. In one breath, we talk about God the Father, creator, ruler, all-powerful, holy. In the next breath, we talk about God the son – human, near us, loving us – like a brother. In the next breath, we talk about God the Spirit – mysterious, within us, an invisible but powerful force moving in creation.
These different parts of God don’t exist independently of each other: they all relate to each other intimately. The Father loves the Son, the Son is obedient to the Father and pleases the Father, the Spirit is “sent” to us by the Son. Each of them loves, reflects, respects, relates to the other.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking about the “doctrine of the trinity” in academic terms – as a set of facts that are important to understand. But this idea embodies so much more than cold facts.
God is, himself, a dance. He is The Dance.
And, in my eyes, God’s creation reflects the same beautiful paradox of dance: the paradox of oneness and many-ness, of interrelatedness and independence. Consider:
– Electrons, Protons, Neutrons are all bound together, dancing with each other to form a single, atomic particle.
– Physicists tell us that waves and particles interact in a bizarre way, sometimes to the point where they appear to be one and the same thing – sometimes appearing to be quite distinct.
– Energy and matter are separate things, and yet – as Einstein taught us – can also be seen as only one thing.
– Planets circle stars in an elaborate relationship that is based on their relative, unique gravitational forces.
– Stars “pull” toward each other, forming galaxies.
– Even the galaxies themselves are bound together by powerful gravitational forces that are either slowing the expansion of the universe or drawing it all back together. We don’t even know yet which is the case.
– Plants and animals, earth and water – all live together in ecosystems. One does not exist without the other. They are interdependent.
– Humans are also themselves interdependent with the rest of life on this planet, within the same ecosystem.
– Men and women are different, yet also similar. We need one another to perform our own ultimate, unique acts of creation – reproduction.
– Even sexuality must ultimately be seen as something that happens because the different and unique come together to experience something new and beautiful – something that they could not achieve on their own. (Why is prostitution such a travesty? Does it defile the meaningfulness of true sexuality by attempting the impossible – trying to turn something that ought to be a voluntary, beautiful act of creativity through intimacy into a cold, business transaction?)
The scriptures tell us that God was satisfied with creation because he found it to be good. Not because it was orderly. Not because it was workable. Not because it was sensible. It was, and is, beautiful to him. And, for me, the greatest thing about the whole story of God’s creation is that we are at the pinnacle. Everything else was good – but when he talked about humanity – he said that we were very good.
What is it that makes us even more unique? More beautiful? Here, I think, is part of the answer:
When scripture first describes how humans are like God, it talks about how humans were created “male and female”? Even the earliest writers of scripture knew that it is in the way that men and women come together – in intimate community – that they are most like God.
When we are alone, something is missing. But when we come together, we are most like Him.
I don’t think this idea is limited to relationships between men and women. When human relationships “work” – when we come together in life, in labor, in intimacy, in sport, in song, in art, in drama, in poem – we experience more than a mutually beneficial, logically derived “partnership,” like two businessmen leveraging each other’s expeirence and assets. Instead, we find ourselves at play. We experience joy, community, and wholeness. It is in those relationships, where, in our togetherness, we experience beauty – that we are most like God.
In the song Joy to the World, there is a lyric which tells us that “heaven and nature sing.” Even though they arise in the context of the arrival of Jesus on earth, those words ring true to me on a larger scale. Nature isn’t an elaborate mechanism created by God to serve as the ultimate engineering marvel. It is a creation of God, manifesting who he is. In elaborate harmony, with infinite variation – nature, along with heaven itself, sings to us. They tell us about who God is and reveal to us his nature so that we, even moreso, can imitate that nature.
I’ll say it again: we are not being ordered to enter into an accounting transaction on a cosmic scale, impersonal and businesslike. We are being invited to participate in something that is more like a dance. And everything around us – from the smallest units of matter to the largest of galaxies – is showing us what it means to join in.
(More to come)