I have recently begun a new skill. After 36 years of marriage, I have agreed to learn to dance. I live in South Texas, so the dance of choice is the two step or the triple two step. I remain a novice. I have to count in my head, slow, slow, quick, quick, or slow, slow, quick, quick, quick.
If I take my eyes off the path or if I try to talk to my partner (usually my wife), I lose count and have to start again.
The teacher is teaching in a group context, so as we learn, there are 50 plus other learners on the dance floor. Several are actually accomplished dancers who just enjoy the atmosphere. There is minimal distraction, the focus is on learning to dance. I am learning to dance and get a few coherent words out at the same time.
Years ago, I had a coach who questioned if I could walk and chew gum at the same time. So, I want you to understand this is a challenge. To complicate matters, I am not dancing alone. My wife is walking backwards, trusting me to listen to instruction, count, watch for barriers and other dancers and interact all at the same time. The teacher keeps saying, all the pressure is on the men, if a mistake happens, they did it. Followers, women, just follow the lead. Do not try to help them, do not try to guide them, just follow the lead.
My wife is amazing and forgiving as I learn. She has more experience dancing than I do. She has not danced in years, but prior to me she had attained a level of competence that I can only dream of. One of the difficulties is her trusting me as she dances backwards. Can I keep count, maintain my correct steps and protect her from running into barriers, other dancers or just stepping on her feet?
Dr. Larry Crabb, Christian psychologist and author has coined the phrase “dancing with the Trinity”. In Dr Crabb’s context, it is learning to enjoy being in the presence of the Father, by the grace of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and remaining under the Holy Spirits leadership. As I learn to dance and watch my wife learn to relax and trust my leading, I was struck by the similarity with my walk with the Spirit.
I am instructed to rely on the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit was coming to comfort and guide. As I dance with the Trinity, am I willing to follow without looking over my shoulder? Am I willing to let the Spirit lead the dance? Am I willing to keep my gaze on the Spirit, Christ and the Father trusting them to watch for barriers and other dancers? Am I willing to follow His lead, to spin when He leads, to pause when He pulls, to move faster when He pushes, all without turning around to check the path?
If the follower in my dance class refuses to trust the leader, there is confusion and frequently injured toes. They both get thrown off track. I do not believe my resistance in trust “throws” the Spirit off, but it does inhibit His forward movement in my life. As I learn to dance, I am seeing how much my desire to lead inhibits the Spirit in my life. When I watch the accomplished dancers, with jealousy, I notice several things.
First, the leader is able to interact with the follower, they talk, they laugh, they connect with gaze and move as one. There is a confidence in the follower, that the leader has them, literally, they are holding them in place. Don’t misunderstand. Our dance instructor constantly talks about maintaining the frame, giving appropriate resistance so the leader can lead. The follower has to gently push back on the leader to create the structure for the leader to guide. Trusting the Spirit to lead is not a resignation to whatever. Rather, I believe, that we are to create the tension that is who we are as individuals, living our God given bent, to dance our unique dance with the Spirit.
Second, the accomplished dancers frequently do cool stuff. There are spins, dips, and back steps that I cannot even imagine pulling off. They have added their personality into the dance. Paul in Colossians 1 prays for the Christians he is writing to, he says, “We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God…”. Paul encourages us to live pleasing to the Lord and to produce fruit. We are each unique, we produce different fruit, we are planted in different places. Just like the accomplished dancers, the Spirit leads us with our personality and gifts in mind.
Third, the follower in the accomplished dancing teams are relaxed, they never look back, they focus on the leader, they talk, they laugh, and they show joy. When I learn to dance with the Spirit, my gaze will always be on Him, I will relax and laugh and rest in His presence in joy.
Lord, teach me to dance as the follower with total faith and trust in the leading of the Spirit.