May I have this dance?

Stroll with Nicole

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Nicole Law finds some useful insights into her spiritual life on the dance floor.

I have a soft spot for swing dance – one of my great loves. The upbeat tempo and relaxed style offers me a chance to let loose a little and to step out of my comfort zone. 

I have never been a natural dancer in a class setting – it takes time for me to get into the groove and to get the moves right. I would rather watch videos online than attend an in-person class. I feel less self-conscious that way and no one can see my poorly-executed turns and multiple slips. 

In some ways that’s how a lot of us live our lives – in perceived security. We prefer to circle familiar pathways instead of venturing into the wider boulevard beyond. I see the attraction of it all – these are roads we have walked many times before, we know the twists and turns, and we can even anticipate the potholes ahead, sidestepping them without thinking. Yet, I wonder, is that a life of fullness? Are we missing out on something? 

Those were my thoughts as I considered joining a physical dance class. I squirmed in indecision for a long while – citing reasons like a lack of talent or insufficient motor coordination and bodily rhythm. It’s not too different from us putting off something risky or new, for the simple reason of fearing failure. What if I looked like a fool, I wondered. What if I couldn’t pick up the dance despite my best efforts? 

A trip to a taster dance class and a round of exhilarating triple steps later, drew me out of my shell. I enrolled in a series of classes and looked around the dance studio, very aware of the floor to ceiling mirrors. It was disconcerting to see myself staring back, nervously transferring my weight from one foot to another. 

The instructor invited us to partner up, and at first I was overcome by shyness – the close proximity was something I was not accustomed to.

My instructor noted that I was standing at arm’s length from my partner and insisted “You need a strong connection, Nicole, please get a little closer.” 

Reflecting on my own spiritual life, I asked myself: “Does this also reflect my discomfort with being fully known and getting close to God?” Maybe it does. Reluctantly, I moved closer. The discomfort slowly started to dissipate as I realised how easy dancing was, with this oft-described connection. I reflected on my own connection with God and noted that there are times when I struggle to feel His presence – like I’ve been keeping my distance!

As I proceeded to execute a series of turns, I realised I’d started to fall out of synch with my partner. He remarked: “You need to let yourself be led, Nicole!” That struck me: was I also powering through life by my own efforts? Maybe I was struggling to surrender to uncertainty too in other areas of life. 

Being led across the dance floor requires trust in one’s partner – that he knows what he is doing, that he can see obstacles behind you and steer you past them and, most importantly, that he can take charge. 

I have never been one to take direction well – I prefer to do things my own way – and that fed through into my resistance to allowing myself to meld into the rhythm and the direction in which my partner was leading me. 

Perhaps we struggle to be led in the small and big decisions of life due to our desire for independence.

We would rather depend on our own efforts than seek help from others or – shock horror – let others lead the way! We’d rather fail alone than succeed guided by others.

And so it might be in our relationship with God. He is leading us in one direction and we are leaping in the other. It could be fear of depending completely on his generosity and providence. Or  fear of losing control over the next step we are about to take. 

I resisted the urge to dance on my terms and gradually relaxed my iron grip – another bodily indication of fear of the unknown. What seemed to require much effort on my part gave way to an effortless glide across the floor, drawing a word of praise from my instructor who shouted over the jazz music: “Nicole, you are finally dancing!” 

You may also fear that first step onto the floor but I challenge you to let yourself trip and fall so as to then groove artlessly.  But above all, accept the invitation, “May I have this dance?” 

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