|Images from Life magazine|
Dean and I have been taking swing dance lessons for a few years now. I must admit that I have a love/hate relationship with dancing. I like the physical activity, I like learning the moves, I like hanging out with Dean and meeting interesting people, and I love watching skilled people dance. Here are the parts I am not so fond of. First, taking dance lessons means dancing with a different person every 5 minutes or so; this is a bit socially awkward for an introvert, but I can deal with it. The second and biggest downside for me is that much of the time I feel like I just don't know what I am doing. Very often the leader I am dancing with will start a move or give me a signal and I will miss it. I won't know what to do next and I end up at odds with him, out of sync or facing the wrong direction. Honestly, much of the time I feel like a bad follower. This particular session our teachers focused on showing us how to be better followers. An exercise we did one evening was to try to follow the other person's moves without any physical contact. It was amazing how much I could pick up just from watching the other person once I knew where to put my focus.
This was a breakthrough for me! I was not a bad follower, I just hadn't known where to look! Because of this I was always waiting for a nudge, a push, a pull, a prod, something to get me moving in the right direction or give me a clue about what was coming next. But that's not what dancing is about; it is not one person pushing or dragging the other one around. Many of the places I had been looking were unhelpful: the floor, my feet, my partner's feet, their arms, their forehead, our surroundings, etc. When I watched my partner's shoulders, it became quite obvious where they were going, no prodding needed. I could see a change coming, could notice a shift in momentum or direction, could tell where they were putting their weight. It was a freeing experience to know that I did have the ability to follow, to know what was coming, and to respond appropriately.
Sometimes I feel the same way in my relationship to God. I seem to be floundering, all over the place, trying to get in sync with what God is doing. If there are signals, I seem to miss them or even misinterpret them. So I pray for more obvious nudges, clearer signs, and await a touch from God to set me in a certain direction. But the movements of God are all there for me to see if I just know where to look. It is not that God doesn't want to touch us; it is that he does not want to force us. The beauty of the dance is ruined by a forceful and demanding lead who leaves no room for the follower to express herself and shine in her own unique way.
Whether or not I feel the touch of God is sort of irrelevant. I can know the joy of being a great follower if I keep my eyes in the right place: not on my feet, not on my circumstances, not on the floor or the sky, not on what others are doing around me, but on the core, on the heart of the one I am trying to follow. Everything else flows from that.