Two things you should know about me before I begin this story. One, I hate country music. I have no problems with other people liking it, but I only subject myself to it when forced. Two, I have no rhythm. Whatever part of your brain keeps time and connects with music does not function in my head. This is in huge contrast to my wife who did nothing but dance growing up. To say that I have two left feet doesn’t cut it. I have no feet. So I rarely try, outside of Chandler Bing moves.
Despite all of this, and due to a great fondness for my wife, this past Thanksgiving I went with my in-laws to take a one hour two-stepping lesson and then go out dancing for the rest of the night. My wife is very sweet because she enjoyed dancing with me even though she is really good and I stepped on her feet most of the time. Some attribute this to me wearing Converse instead of boots, but I refuse to make that jump.
We spent hours with nothing but country blaring in our ears, and I did the one thing that makes me feel more like an idiot than anything else in life.
I had a blast. And I learned a lot about dancing.
That night, I watched people who had never met dance around the floor and do some pretty amazing things on the dance floor. In my mind, if you are going to dance like that, you need to have choreographed it. But during my lesson, I found out how two strangers can do this.
There are cues. When the dance partner who is leading does certain things – steps a certain way, hold their hand a certain way, moves their partner a certain way – it is a signal that something is coming. Sometimes it means the one leading will be doing something, other times it is a signal for the other person to do something.
But if you learn these little cues, and have a few more moves in your repertoire, then you can create some beautiful dances. There is no need to choreograph. The cues help you know what your partner is doing and once the cues have been given, there is a great deal of freedom for how you respond.
Euegene Peterson talks about the Trinity in these terms. I have spent a lot of hours in school and readings about the trinity. Any history of Christianity or base theology course focuses on the idea. A lot of the times, I wonder how much the minutiae even really matters. But the best way I have ever heard it explained is also one of the longest standing metaphors: a dance.
A dance happens when individuals come together to create a particular kind of movement. Each is freed to be an individual, but their individuality happens in response to the other. It is constant motion. There is a rhythm. And within this motion and rhythm there is a great deal of freedom and creativity on behalf of each person involved. And this creates a great deal of enjoyment of the partner. And it all takes place in the context of responding to the other.
Trinity is important not because it is a “fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.” Trinity is important because it is a dynamic, creative movement we are called to PARTICIPATE in. It is not just something God does. It is something we do with God.
We are invited to dance with God.
As Chris reminded us, Trinity is a great mystery. Mystery is tough to deal with when we assume Christianity is about “getting it right.” But if we view Trinity as a dance, we can see that we don’t have to understand everything about God to experience Trinity. In a dance, two strangers can come together and do a beautiful dance. They don’t have to have all the right information about each other to dance. They have just learned the cues and act creatively.
Following Jesus and the Christian life is not about understanding the theology of the Trinity. It is learning the cues. We learn how God leads us and how God acts in the world. As we learn these cues, we then learn how to respond. And just like a dance, we are given the freedom to respond in our own creative and unique ways.
But the beauty of this dance is that it is not a dance between strangers. Over time, we learn how God moves and acts towards us personally. Truly great dance partners know each other well. They develop their own rhythm and their own cues.
This is why married couples take up ball room dancing instead of going to the club for some bump and grind.
This is why I can step all over my wife’s feet and have a really enjoyable time.
The dance is better when you know your partner. The deeper the intimacy, the more fun the dance is. Even when you are rhythmically handicapped.
As I struggle to follow Jesus, I screw up, fall down, get it wrong, look like an idiot…all the time. But I am trying to get better. I am learning the cues. But I have a partner who just wants to dance. And as we dance, I get better at dancing. As I learn the cues, I am freed to create our new ones just for me and God.
But the beauty and life is in the dance. It is not about looking good, or knowing the right terminology or even getting the steps right. It is about the joy I experience in constant motion with my partner.