My freshman year of college I learned to swing dance.
I’ll never forget when one of my friends pulled me out into the middle of the gym floor after I had learned the basic East Coast Swing step. We began moving our feet in sync, but the tension in my arms indicated my trepidation as I hesitantly responded to his movements. My eyes were glued to our feet, as I tried to predict the next step we would take. One failed spin too many, I finally got a laughing, “Mads, stop. You have to let me lead.”
I’ve since learned a lot about swing dancing from my irregular attendance to the lessons and dances over the past two years. I’ve learned the wrong flats will give you terrible blisters. I’ve learned how spandex shorts under dresses are a girl’s best friend. I’ve learned I’m not actually a bad follow; I just need to be dancing with a lead that I trust. Even when I trust my lead, I have to keep my eyes off our feet if I want to stop trying to predict the next move and actually enjoy the dance.
I love empowering women but for swing dancing to work you have to have a lead and a follow. It’s just how the dance works. Partner dancing where two people are trying to call the shots is always a mess. He initiates the spin and I respond by spinning. He catches my back and I lean into the dip. While my time at the Wheaton swing dances wasn’t spent drawing parallels to my spiritual life, the passage my pastor read on Sunday, from Luke 9, reminded me of the eternal dance I’m in with the Lord. The Message phrases verse 23 this way:
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am.”
It’s a pretty simplistic correlation: the Lord is our lead and we are His follow.
As I reflected on this simple truth, I’ve realized that it’s not often a lack of trust that causes me to be a hesitant follow. I’ve swing danced (swung, swinged. . .I still haven’t learned how you actually say it) with some of my best guy friends. I’ve danced with guys whose skills I wholeheartedly trusted. It’s not that I didn’t think they could lead well; I was just too busy looking at our feet to notice.
So much of the time I feel like Peter walking towards Jesus on the water. Obviously he trusted Jesus or he wouldn’t have stepped out of the boat in the first place. I don’t think Peter ever really doubted Jesus’ ability to get him across the water; he loses his focus on the trustworthy One when he looks down and begins to analyze his own movements.
Maybe you need to be reminded that Jesus is eternally and infinitely trustworthy. If you are like me you probably keep finding yourself in places where you frustratingly tell yourself: “You really believe He is trustworthy! So why then do you keep trying to control things . . . can’t you let go . . . aren’t you all in?” It’s not that you don’t think you have a trustworthy Lead. It’s not even that you are a bad follow. You just need to get your eyes off the steps and back on the Person you are dancing with. It makes for a much better view anyway.
I wish I could wrap this post up like a well constructed sermon with three take-home points on how to keep your eyes on Jesus. Sometimes my focus shifts back when I stop analyzing the minutia of every step of my life and look at the big picture of what God is doing. Sometimes it requires the opposite, stopping my futuristic anxieties and simply living in the moment to get my eyes up. Scripture, prayer, worship, and walks in nature are always helpful in snapping my attention back. And sometimes we can become so engrossed in anticipating the steps that our patient and loving Lead Himself has to speak our name, wait for our eyes to meet His again, and whisper the reminder to our hearts: “you have to let me lead.”