Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dancing with God

Coming into this life, I was placed in a multi-ethnic family environment. As you can guess from my last name, my father’s heritage is Polish. What is hidden from view is that my mother’s family is from Italy. This very interesting combination not only afforded me many different forms of food and music, I also was a very convenient verbal piñata for all sorts of ethnic jokes and slurs. I’ll let your imaginations do the work there.

One thing that both Polish and Italian cultures embrace is dancing, and my parents were great at it. When they first met after World War II, they would go out dancing with their friends all around Baltimore. And since my grandmothers bore a total of 28 aunts and uncles, there were plenty of weddings for my almost innumerable cousins affording countless opportunities for dancing.

Whenever my parents got up to dance, they were the center of attention. Their faces lit up with excitement and enjoyment as they moved across the floor with such great grace and energy. People would move off the dance floor just to watch them, clapping with the music and finishing the number with applause for the music, the entertainment and my parents.

It was a source of pride to be their son. Family members, friends and even strangers would come up to them; shake their hand, patting them on the back. Everyone was astounded and amazed at their dancing skill.

At one point in my life I was absolutely convinced that dancing was a learned talent and not genetic. I came to this scientific and statistical conclusion because I have enough trouble just walking, no less dancing. You would be amazed, or perhaps you wouldn’t, to know how many times I trip over myself, a leaf on the sidewalk, crack in the street or curb. My knees, elbows, hands and head all bear the scars of countless close encounters of the third kind with the floor, street, sidewalk, pieces of furniture.

But dancing appears to be one of those DNA things that skip a generation. Our daughter Jenny is a phenomenal swing dancer. Watching her live and through video clips, my jaw still drops as she effortlessly moves across the floor, synchronized with her dancing partner; arm in arm, spinning, moving across the floor while they talk. With great big smiles on their faces and laughter in their hearts, they move within a crowd of other dancers like a great school of fish who are all connected by some mysterious, invisible string. When the dance is over, they clap and laugh while I trip and almost fall trying to get a bottle of water.

While some of us can dance better than others, we all desire this kind of close friendship and contact with people. Even though I trip over myself as I just walk across a dance floor, there is still that hidden part of me that wants to dance. And somewhere deep down we also want this with God. We want a close, transparent and open relationship with God but we somehow feel dirty, unworthy and guilty about approaching him.

The great news is that God wants to dance with us. More than just a close, step by step and completely open and ongoing connection, God wants to be part of our lives. To prove it, he came in Jesus Christ, fully God and completely human all at the same time. The Bible uses some very interesting and relational language to describe Jesus as someone who is “alongside” and “near” us. He is also “holding with” us in this life and forward into all eternity. [1]

When we read those words, doesn’t it sound just like dancing? God wants to be alongside us, moving step by step with us, holding onto us. Yes, God wants to dance with you and me. But as with dancing, it can’t be forced. He offers to dance with us, but we have to reach out our hand and welcome him alongside. He will not force us to dance with him. But we know that he greatly wants to dance with us. Our part is to open ourselves up to his invitation to dance.

Now I can hear some of you saying, “But Chet, you don’t know how I’ve stumbled and fallen in the past. My hands, mind and life are dirty from all my dancing disasters.” While that is true for all of us, God also knows all about us yet he openly and freely wants to dance with us, face to face.

I would really encourage you to reach out your hand and life to Jesus, inviting him to dance with you today. He’s life’s great dancing partner, knowing us, looking into our hearts with love and acceptance. As we live and dance with him, gliding side-by-side, arm-in-arm,  hand-in-hand with us across the dance floor of life.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] Hebrews 2:14

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