Walking, climbing, and fighting aren’t the only metaphors for the Christian life.
I’ll admit that a Baptist pastor blogging about dancing may seem a little like a fish blogging about the Tour De France. Especially this Baptist pastor. I don’t dance. Not that I’m morally opposed to it. I just am not coordinated.
But yesterday morning in my quiet time, I started thinking about the one dance step from high school show choir that I kinda-sorta got right. The Box Step: Step up, cross over, step back, crossover. One step up one step sideways, one step back, one step sideways. Constant motion, no forward progress.
And on a lot of days, that’s the perfect metaphor for my walk with Christ. I’ll take a step forward. Then I’ll get distracted–step sideways. Then I’ll fall back into a sinful pattern– step back. Then I’ll get distracted again–step sideways.
Quite the contrast from the image you get from the old hymn, “Higher Ground:”
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
I posted my thoughts on Facebook: “Sometimes it seems like I have less of a walk with Christ and more of a Box Step: step forward, step sideways, step back. Is it just me?”
And after a couple dozen comments, I realized: it’s not just me. We all feel the frustration of motion without movement in our spiritual journey.
My friend Danny, who has had more than his fair share of ups and downs, sidesteps and back steps, found the words I couldn’t find: “A beautiful waltz is also created by these same steps… perfection with the right partner leading the way.”
And it got me thinking: what if “walking with Christ” isn’t the only metaphor? What if, instead of always thinking about discipleship as an upward climb, or a grueling marathon, or a march into battle, we thought of it as an intimate dance?
Granted, there are times when we have to be reminded of the battle (Ephesians 6:10-18) Or the race (Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Or the walk (1 John 2:6). But the same Bible that describes Jesus as our trainer for a race or our commanding officer for a battle also describes Him as our bridegroom for a wedding.
And at a wedding, you dance.
A dance is different from a marathon or a mountain climb. In a dance, there’s a relationship with your dance partner. There’s intimacy. There’s freedom and joy. There’s the potential of captivating and inspiring your audience (well, at least when other people do it. Not so much me…) And there are times of rest and risk. When you place all your trust into your partner–when you allow him to support all your weight, there is both risk and rest.
King Solomon, who was no stranger to weddings (he had 700 wives, after all!) described this image beautifully in his Song of Songs:
The left hand supported the bride. The right hand embraced her. There was support and tenderness. There was security and passion.
And today, that’s the metaphor I’m going to hang on to for discipleship. Yes, I will keep walking in the light. I’ll keep marching to Zion. I’ll keep pressing on. But today, I’m going to dance with the bridegroom. And I’m going to remember that the relationship is important as the destination.
Perhaps that’s what Jesus was hinting at in Matthew 11:28-30:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it in the Message, I’m going to learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Perfection, with the right partner leading the way.