Why We Should Dance [Dancing is Good]
Dance as a Metaphor
For months and months prior to my wife's 26th birthday, she would constantly comment about how much she would like to learn how to dance and how beautiful and intimate dancing must be. At first, I reacted as most men probably would, with a sense of abject horror of trying to coordinate my feet with the rest of my body in such a way that I was not making a fool of myself in front of other people. So initially, I would only grunt my assent or try to ignore the comments entirely, but she persisted. To compound my frustration and her resolve, the movie “Shall We Dance?” came out during that fall. I knew from the moment that I consented to go to the movie that the dancing issue was now a foregone conclusion.
When her birthday rolled around, I was pondering what I would give Jaime. Inexorably, my mind was drawn to all of her comments from the prior six months. Since I love nothing more than being able to surprise her, I gave Jaime the gift of dance lessons. The gift itself was not that expensive, but she and I both knew that it was costing me something great to give it: my pride. As the time drew near, my wounded pride was given some salve through the recruitment of several friends whose wives were as eager to learn how to dance as their husbands were not. At least now I was not alone in my suffering.
Disclaimer: I have come to realize, through hindsight, that whenever this particular group of friends gathers together that inevitably some great lesson is about to be learned. Whether we are gathered for a meal, a hike or even (as I came to find out) dance lessons, we are always drawn to some deeper truth, mostly through what seems to be just everyday conversation. Two of those friends recently have passed away, but the memories I have of time spent with them remain deep inside me heart. At that time, I was not looking to learn anything except how to make my body move to a rhythm, but what lay in store was something that would touch my very understanding of self (in the broader philosophical term and in a very practical way).
I will bypass the story of the actual dancing lessons; suffice to say that we all learned a dose of humility spiced with a smattering of swing, waltz, foxtrot, and meringue. The main point of this story comes from a conversation one of the other couples had with our dance instructor. As we watched what the instructor hoped would be motivational videos of other beginning dancers doing routines, she made the comment that this particular dancer on the tape was not that fantastic of a dancer, but that all of the ladies wanted to dance with him. Curious as to why, the other couple asked our instructor. She responded very simply, “Because he knows how to show them off.”
Up until that time, I didn’t have a good understanding of my role in the dance, but when I heard that, it all became very clear. The man’s job in the dance is twofold: First, he sets the tempo and leads to the next step. This I understood and was trying desperately to accomplish. But the second part, and arguably the most important one, is that he is to act as a solid frame on which he is to display his partner. To put it as simply as our instructor did, my job when dancing with my wife is to show her off.
This point should have been obvious, but it was not. It wasn’t clear, because I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I hadn’t thought about my responsibility to my partner. Ultimately, dancing is not about the guy, thank goodness; it is about displaying the beauty of the woman. Many people throughout history have discussed, praised and fought over the beauty that is inherently a woman’s. But that was the first time I had ever considered that my job as a husband was to provide a solid frame upon which to display my wife’s beauty.
As I learned that lesson, another still-deeper truth was coming to bear on my life. Apart from what we know about God from our religious training, when dealing with God on a spiritual level, I found that there is much more to knowing God. One of the fundamental truths that I learned is that God is good, and that He creates good things. Therefore, I was created good. I am not going to delve into the depths of what happens after that creation, because religious teacher have already pounded it into many heads that we live in a fallen, sinful world, and that we ourselves are fallen and sinful. With this point I cannot argue, insofar as we are talking about fallen man. That point, though, does not negate the previous statement; just because something was created good does not mean that it will remain that way.
As we live our lives, we can draw many parallels to dancing; poets and songwriters have been doing this for years. But the direction I want to take is slightly different: God came to save mankind; this is common knowledge among those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but what did He come to save us to? This is what I propose to you: That God came to save us so that He could dance with us. He fulfills the parameters of a perfect partner. He always knows the tempo that each song should have. He always knows what the next step should be. Most importantly, He provides a solid frame on which to display the goodness restored in that which He created.
Religion has taught us many things about God that are not necessarily true, or at least that are overemphasized, such as telling us that God is displeased with us, or that we are scum compared to Him – all in an attempt to curb our selfishness and pride. But there is a difference between humility and self-abasement. Self-abasement steals the very goodness away from what was created and restored to that which was good. But humility simply accepts the truth that a good God can’t create something that is not good. So it is not too far of a logical leap to an understanding that one of God’s greatest desires is to display us.
The problem that arises, and where our pride really needs to be addressed, is when we try to take over the lead. When dancing, if you have two people who are trying to lead, you end up with a disoriented bundle of arms and legs going in different directions. Dancing is only meant to have one leader, much as a relationship or life lived with God. All God is saying is, “Let Me lead, I know the steps, I will get you through this song,” and the more we trust that He knows what He is doing, the better we look, no matter what song is playing.
Some of the most graceful and confident people I have ever known are those who simply trust that their partner knows what He is doing. They have made their hardest job not trying to know what steps are next, or trying to figure out the tempo of what is happening, but rather they are simply stepping where they are supposed to at that moment. That is why we should learn how to dance.