One final word, friends. We ask you – urge is more like it – that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (Message)
This verse whistled within me this morning, which has been happening lately whenever I come across the word dance in the Message translation. I may not have been blessed with much rhythm, but I love to shake with what little I have.
When considering Paul’s words, the structure-lover side of personality envisioned a huge stage with an impeccably choreographed dance. Every toned and expertly trained dancer – all dressed in matching attire – knew their parts perfectly and no leg or arm or twist or turn was out of synch. I found myself thinking…What glory that would bring God, if we all performed just as the Master dancer instructed and made every move with flawless precision!
But then another image came to mind: a banquet in a big, old school gymnasium with dim lights, cheap discount party store decor, and loud music thumping. Everybody was there. Not just “anybody who’s anybody.” But everybody. The old, the young, the rich, the poor, the round, the lean, the clean, the dirty, the weak, the strong. The rhythmic, and the rhythmically challenged. All skin colors. Strollers, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs. Everyone.
And everyone was dancing in their own way – there was boogie-ing, disco-ing, c-walking, salsa-ing, even hula-ing. The jazzercisers, ballerinas, and zumba-ers showed off their stuff side by side. This was a living, spirited dance, no doubt…and as he watched, God was grinning ear to ear.
So Paul gives an exhortation to live a pure life as a dance, not a drudgery, and these two images are what comes to my mind. Which is more fitting? Perhaps it’s not an either/or dichotomy. Perhaps both forms of movement – the disciplined and practiced, as well as the free and spontaneous — are just as pleasing to God. Perhaps we need to explore both, just as long as neither becomes a dogged religious plod.
In the words of Martha Graham (an influential American modern dancer/choreographer who was the first dancer to perform at the White House and is often referred to as the “Picasso of Dance”): Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.
Are you and God enjoying your spiritual dance?