So You Think You Can Dance?

The administrator of a Facebook group asked the following question awhile back: The Bible promises “Truth will set you free,” right? Is it just me, or do Bible quoters and Bible Pushers seem like the most bound up, un-free people in the world?

Since we are into another season of So You Think You Can Dance, and it’s on my mind, I thought I’d share my response to him.

I’ve been thinking about that question and why believers are not the most joyfully free people on the planet. My thoughts took me to one of my favorite TV programs, So You Think You Can Dance? For those who aren’t familiar with this program, it is sort of like American Idol, only for dancing instead of singing. I don’t have a graceful bone in my body, and have no knowledge of dancing, but I WISH I could dance, and I love the graceful movement of dancers, and it’s really fun to be exposed to and increase my knowledge of dancing. I even think Hip Hop and Krumping are interesting! Also, I think in metaphors and this program gives me a lot of spiritual metaphors to ponder.

The beginning of the So You Think You Can Dance season always begins with the auditions that take place in several major cities around the country. Some dancers are immediately rejected, others are immediately allowed to go on to the next stage, which is to go to Las Vegas where they will undergo an intense week of dance classes and where more people will be eliminated until there are only 20 dancers left to compete in the TV program. But those who are not immediately rejected or accepted are allowed to go to a choreography session at the end of each audition day to see if they can learn new steps. Those who do well there are allowed to go to Las Vegas.

I am amazed by some of the people who think they can dance. Some are just AWFUL. The worst part is when they don’t know they can’t dance. Usually these awful dancers grumble and complain that the judges don’t know what they’re doing when they eliminate them! I don’t think the judges are nasty simply because they are trying to be nasty. Instead, the judges are there because they are passionate about dancing, and they want to help people enjoy dancing and improve their dancing ability. They are direct–and sometimes impatient–with those who are unteachable, and appalled by those who are trying to teach others to dance when they, themselves, don’t know how to dance. However, the judges appreciate teachability and sometimes they will allow a dancer to go on to the choreography session, not because they think the dancer will make it through to Las Vegas, but because they want to encourage the dancer to learn more and to give him/her the experience of learning choreography.

The dancers who finally make it to the top 20 and the program must learn a lot of different styles of dance that are way outside their own styles of dance. They have only a week to learn a style of dance that most dancers spend their whole lives learning. The dancers are all grateful for this experience because they all know they are broadening their knowledge and skill. And the teachers all enjoy passing on their knowledge and love of their area of expertise.

I have observe the following things about this show:

The dancers must learn the steps of the dance style they are suppose to learn. If they do not learn the steps of a particular dance then they are not doing that dance. The Foxtrot has certain steps that make it a Foxtrot. A Waltz has certain steps that make it a Waltz. Hip Hop has certain movements that make it Hip Hop. So there are technical steps and skills that must be learned. However, it is possible to concentrate so hard on getting the steps technically correct that a dancer completely misses the essence of the dance. They do the steps technically correct, but there is a woodeness, an awkwardness, a joylessness about their dancing. A dancer really “gets it” when he/she can dance with joy and passion and grace, making steps of great difficulty appear effortlessly graceful or passionate or fun.

I’ve observed that while it’s important to dance with skill, the judges will judge more critically dancers who have the technical skill correct but dance without joy. They will give more criticism to a couple who technically dances together correctlly but who have no passion between them. The higher praise goes to those who dance as one, who dance with joy and passion even if they make a few technical mistakes along the way. Dancing is not merely about technical skill, but about freedom, grace, joy, passion, life.

Other arts have this same sort of principle of technicality and passion. For example, it is essential to learn the “rules” of writing, such as proper sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Without these foundational rules, it would be very difficult to communicate in writing. However, a true writer is one who, having an understanding of the rules of writing, can go beyond the rules and enjoy the writing. The words just flow out of a writer’s mind and heart, and his/her words are filled with passion and life. She doesn’t really have to REMEMBER the rules of writing, she LIVES them, in a sense. An artist must learn the technical skills of painting, but a true artist paints passionately from her heart, not just with technical skill. In fact, a true artist doesn’t try to be technically perfect, but incorporates “flaws” and “imperfection” in her work.

So what’s the point of me mentioning all this? I see a spiritual parallel here:

As I have written before in my blog, there are opposite truths that are both true. Truths such as: Jesus is God and also man. We are to love the sinner, but hate the sin. God has chosen us, but we choose Him. God is sovereign, but we have free will. God is loving and merciful, but He is also holy. We are saved by faith, not works, but faith without works is dead. There have been divisions between Christians as they argued which was true–one or the other–but the Jews didn’t try to resolve these opposites. They held on to BOTH, saying “These also are the words of God” to opposite truths. My new description of this opposite-but-true-truths is an adaptation of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which my son and I learned recently in our homeschool: for every spiritual truth, there is an equal but opposite truth. Anyway, to get back to the dance…

Just as dancers have to learn the technical steps of a dance, a writer has to learn the technical rules of writing, the artist needs to learn the technical skills of painting, so we HAVE to learn the spiritual truths that our foundational truths of the Word of God. There IS Absolute Truth (which is God’s perspective–He sees everything clearly). God is a God of love and mercy and forgiveness, but He also is holy and hates sin. There are behaviors that grieve Him. There are consequences for sin. We DO need to learn to read His Word, to understand truth, to talk to God, to meet with other believers, to minister to others in need. However, if we stay at this level, we will become people of legalistic, joyless, lifeless rules. I believe that a truly mature believer seeks to learn the Truths of God, but goes beyond the mere rules to the relationship with Christ. She doesn’t just technically focus on the steps of truth, she LIVES them in a joyful, passionate, graceful dance with Christ that is free and full of life. And when she makes a mistake–as she will!–she doesn’t stop dancing, but let’s Christ carry her through, letting Him guide and correct her steps.

Why do so many Christians have so little joy and freedom? I think it’s because they focus so much on the technical steps that they miss the essence of the dance. They focus so much on the rules that they miss the relationship. They focus so much on their fear of messing up that they never learn to LIVE. They focus so much on what they shouldn’t do, that they never see all that we do have the freedom to do. (Look at Adam and Eve–they focused so much on the ONE thing that there weren’t supposed to have that they ignored all the many, many, many things that they were given!)

So, what does all this mean in a personal, practical way? At one time, I tried very hard to live by the rules, deathly afraid of getting it “wrong” and losing Christ’s love. But along the way, He has been teaching me that “He cannot love me more and He will not love me less.” I am in a RELATIONSHIP with Christ. Is it always delightful and joyful? It might seem like the complete opposite of what I wrote above, but NO, relationship with Christ isn’t always delightful and joyful! Oh, sometimes I feel delightfully close to Christ. Sometimes I am overcome with awesome joy. But relationships can be messy, and sometimes I do NOT like what Christ tells me to do. Sometimes I want to give Him EVERYTHING and I promise to do ANYTHING He asks. Other times I tell Him that “NO!” He cannot have this dearest treasure that I want to hang on to. Sometimes I have a little tantrum before I finally give in to Him and “let” Him have His way. Sometimes I just cannot understand why He is doing what He is doing (Is He CRAZY????). Sometimes I think He is brutal and unfair. Sometimes I sob on His shoulder in great pain. ALL relationships have their ups and downs. Relationship is about committment despite the ups and downs. True love comes about as we weather the ups and downs together.

And that is what is grace-filled and freeing about relationship with Christ. I no longer fear making mistakes with Him. I no longer am afraid that He will be disappointed in me and stop loving me. I understand that His love is not based on my performance. I can be who I am with Him without fear. I can boldly live, without being afraid of messing up. Yes, I will make mistakes and step on His feet, but He will teach me His steps! I can get mad at God and yell at Him and know that He understands that, really, I am completely, totally in love with Him. I seek to please Him not because I fear losing His love, but because I love Him so much and know He loves me! I am so much more joyful and bold and free now that I’ve learned He truly loves me. Freedom is about the relationship, the essence of the dance. Even if it sometimes seems as if we are dancing separately, we are really together.

I don’t know if that makes any sense, but those are my two cents worth!

3 thoughts on “So You Think You Can Dance?

  1. Suzy says:

    Good words. Good analogy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Either or semantics and extracting truth from both…Newton's third law of motion. Well said! Enjoyed the post.

  3. TJ says:

    Thanks,Suzy and Anonymous!

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