For so long in my life I expected my experience of God to be like one of those psalms, structured with pleasing rhythms, full of poetic images, a thing of beauty and grace. What I learned is that those psalms were borne out of great hunger — a hunger that no food on this earth can satisfy.
“He who is satisfied has never truly craved,” said Abraham Heschel, and he said this, I think, because he knew that heaven’s richest food does not satisfy our longings but rather intensifies them.
Ken Gire, Reflections on the Word
I don’t know where you are on the mountain or what put you there. I don’t know how wearied you are by the climb or how weathered you are by the elements. I don’t know how alone or abandoned you feel. I don’t know how disoriented you are or how despondent. But wherever you are and however you feel. I want you to curl up in your tent . . . close your eyes . . . and remember.
Remember your own history with God… Think back on the times when God expressed his love for you. Remember those times? Remember the words he spoke? Remember the way he answered your prayers? Remember the gifts he gave you? The many kindnesses he showed you? The forgiveness? The protection? Remember the love you felt for him, the joy, the tears? Remember how he touched you, embraced you, and led you?
He hasn’t changed. Neither has his love for you. It may not seem to be there, the way a rope around your waist doesn’t seem to be there when it’s slack. But it is there. Paul told us that nothing—nothing—would ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).
God’s love for us, not ours for him, is the rope around our waist.
It’s a rope that doesn’t fray, no matter how much it is stretched.
It doesn’t freeze, no matter how cold it gets.
It doesn’t fail, no matter how far we fall . . . or how often.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who popularized the “God is dead” movement, once wrote in a letter to a friend: “If these Christians want me to believe in their god, they’ll have to sing better songs, they’ll have to look more like people who have been saved, they’ll have to wear on their countenance the joy of the beatitudes. I could only believe in a God who dances.”
What Nietzsche failed to realize is that our God, who is very much alive, is a God who dances. What we Christians sometimes fail to realize is that he is a God who dances with us.
To speak of our relationship with Christ as a dance is, of course, to speak metaphorically. But it is also to speak biblically. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, the father’s joy at his son’s return was cause for celebration — at which, the text says, there was feasting, music, and dancing. In Matthew 11:17, Jesus also uses the metaphor to describe the generation that rejected him. “We played the flute for you,” he told them, “and you did not dance.” Jesus invited them to dance, longed for them to dance, and was heartbroken when they didn’t.
When I read that, it grieved me to think of how many throughout history have turned away from the joy of knowing who Christ truly is because they did not see traces of him on the faces or in the lives of those who claimed to know him.
And I wondered, what do people see when they look at me?
You claim you cannot believe
In a God who doesn’t dance
How could he not dance
Who created music
Tuned the universe
From pieces smaller than the atom
To the orchestra of His purpose
A tune so deep
One could listen all his life
But only catch a glimpse
Here and there
In a tear
A moment of sheer joy
A cloud passing over the moon
These moments that whisper
“There is a song”
With him who holds the music
And dances to the music of your heart
One day you will hear the music
The song from beginning to end
Every faint strain you detect now
Then a glorious symphony
Will you dance?
To the music for which your soul
Will you dance?
To the tune for which
Your heart has cried?
Will you dance?
Or will you sit it out?
Fearing that no one else
Hears the music
Maybe they are waiting
For someone to stand up
And show them that he dances
And he taught you how
By placing the rhythm
Deep within your heart
Will you dance?
Ken Gire, in The Divine Embrace, writes about reflecting on where Jesus has taken us on the “dance floor” of our lives. Sometimes the dance goes so fast, the steps so dizzying, that we don’t recognize until much later that there was a pattern to it all.
But there is always a pattern – a reason for each step, a place He is leading.
Why do we so often fail to recognize this? Maybe we, in some ways, fear our own past, the decisions we’ve made – mainly those decision we know led us in the wrong direction. The times we tripped or stumbled on the dance floor – bruised our tailbone and our ego – are not things we want to see on instant replay. We want to forget them. Leave them buried. Move beyond them. Pretend such embarrassing or exposing moments never happened.
But in doing so, we forfeit something.
When I refuse to reflect, I forfeit the memory of the grace He offered at that moment when He held out His hand and lifted me up from where I had fallen. When He sat by my side until I was ready to dance again. When He held me in His arms and wiped away my tears. When He promised, “There is still a symphony. There is still a dance. And I still want to dance with you.”
The moments He takes our trips and stumbles and creates something precious – more so than a perfect dance without a single misstep. He creates grace and beauty. He extends His love.
Such moments we would do well to remember because those are the moments that show us the heart of He who is the Lord of the dance.
Thank you for each moment
With you on the dance floor
I love the rush, the exhilaration
The synchronic steps
Especially when they make sense
And I know where I’m going
But it doesn’t usually happen that way
For that is not the way you dance
So I falter. I stumble. I trip.
And I am afraid
That others will see and know I really have no idea what I’m doing.
Where I’m going.
“I’ll sit this one out.”
But you follow me. Sit with me.
Hold my hand and squeeze it when the music quickens, the beat changes.
As if to say, “Come on, this will be fun.”
Thank you for staying with me
For patiently waiting
And not taking my first “no” as my final answer
Thank you that you know me better
My fear. My timidity.
Yet you know I’ll be happiest
On the dance floor with you
Following your lead
Stepping in time to your rhythm
Even when I falter
Even when I stumble
Having your arms around me
So I never completely fall
Help me not fear to look back, even at the most embarrassing parts of the dance
To remember where you’ve led
THAT you’ve always led
And always stayed with me
I accept your hand
And join you in the dance once more
Dancing is more than getting the steps right. It’s about feeling the music and moving to the music. It’s about losing ourselves in the embrace of someone we love. Above all, it’s about joy.
There is satisfaction in getting the steps right. There is a thrill in the grand, sweeping movements of the dance. There is something gratifying about the acknowledgement of others. And yet . . .
The joy of the dance is not in the preciseness of our steps.
It’s not in the exhilaration of being swept away.
It’s not in the affirmation of the audience.
The joy of the dance is in the delight in our partner’s eyes.
The dance of intimacy is more than just steps. It’s about being in the Lord’s arms as we follow his steps, close enough to his heart that we feel the music. It’s not about just being swept away, however good that feels. It’s about being swept away by him. It’s not about what others think of us; it’s about what he thinks. And what he thinks is captured in his eyes. …
When Jesus looks at us, no matter how we feel about ourselves, he feels delight.
And that delight is in his eyes before we ever take our first step, just as the delight that God the Father had for his Son was in his eyes before Jesus took his first step. On the day of Christ’s baptism, a proud Father spoke out: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life” (Matthew 3:17, The Message). The Father delighted in Jesus before he died on the cross. He delighted in Jesus before he made his first disciple, before he preached his first sermon, before he performed his first miracle. Why? Because Jesus was his Son.
If you’ve ever had a child, you know.
The delight is there long before the first step.
[Baby Sleeping on Mother’s Chest — Image by © Jerry Tobias/Corbis]