I grew up in a “no dancing” context so it would be accurate to conclude that I am no expert on dancing. The closest I’ve come to any experience is doing the “Hokey-Pokey” and that “shake it all about” still makes me a bit self-conscious. So I took a little time read up on it. I learned that in partner dancing the two partners are not equal; one leads and the other follows. In an improvised dance, the Lead assumes the responsibility of picking the steps that he deems to be best suited for the accompanying music and then leading the Follow to complete the routine of steps and moves. In a pre-choreographed dance the Lead is responsible to initiate each move. If the Lead leads and the Follow follows the result is a beautiful, safe dance.
Partner dancing provides an excellent picture of how a Christian and the Holy Spirit work together to produce a dynamic spirituality. The Holy Spirit knows the music that is playing in our lives at any given moment and determines the steps most suitable. He then leads the Christian through those moves and if the Christian follows, a beautiful dance plays out, whether it be to music in a major or a minor key. For our spiritual lives to yield what we long for, we must follow the Lead of the Holy Spirit.
It’s a pretty common Christian experience for the spiritual life to get out of sync. You can call it barrenness or dryness, but things just don’t seem right; the spiritual seems listless. When that happens chances are really good that at some point we’ve switched dancing partners. Someone else has cut in and we’ve let them. It could be we’re dancing with the world or the devil. It also could be we decided we want to go solo. The way I’ve seen it in movies, when someone at the dance doesn’t have a partner, they sit in a chair along the perimeter of the dancefloor and wait to be asked or they go looking for someone to ask. But when we let someone else cut in, the Holy Spirit doesn’t retreat to the sideline and wait to be asked back in. No, in fact, He remains standing there, tapping you on the shoulder, trying to cut in Himself. When we let go of the other partner (repentance) and let the Spirit back into the lead, only then are we dancing the dance we were saved for. Dwight Edwards puts it this way:
“The Spirit eagerly awaits us to rejoin Him in the dance. That’s why repentance isn’t working up a new desire or commitment to do right; it’s turning a cold shoulder to those whom we’ve allowed to seduce us away from our original Partner and then rejoining Him in the dance of the ages. It’s in His arms, with Him in the lead, that we can once again be swept up in divinely orchestrated communion and worship.” (The Revolution Within, p. 152)
I love the picture of the Holy Spirit coming up alongside in the most joyful times of life — like getting married, having a baby, being hired for the job, seeing a loved one arrive home safely, sinking the winning shot — and saying, “Shall we dance?” And we do, for joy. I am comforted by the picture of the Holy Spirit coming up alongside in the toughest times of life — like getting the news you have cancer, watching your child struggle, losing your job, or burying a loved one — and hearing Him whisper “Shall we dance?” And we do. He leads, we follow and even in the ugliest, scariest, most painful experiences of life, He leads us through the steps and together we create an inspiring dance, one of those performances that brings awe-struck spectators to their feet in thunderous applause.
That, to me, is a great picture of Christian living. We can’t do it alone. The Holy Spirit won’t do it for us. Together, Him leading and us following, it works.