I was not exactly one of Ric Seeling’s star pupils. My first problem, he said, was that I was trying to lead. And even when I wasn’t actually leading, I wasn’t following either.
“You have to trust the lead,” he’d tell me. “But you want to analyze it. You keep thinking, ‘Where’s he taking me?’ ‘Why does he want me to go there?’ Just trust the lead and keep moving in that direction until you feel the next lead.” “Wait for the lead,” he’d tell me. “Don’t try to anticipate the lead. You may think you know where your partner is going to lead next, but he may do something entirely different. Wait for the lead!” Ric had certain terminology that he used to teach, and I was such a slow learner that he made me write down the terms.
Next, I had to leave my fingertips “available” to receive directions, especially during turns. If I let go, or if I grasped too tightly, I couldn’t receive the directions and wouldn’t know which way to turn.
He had to remind me to keep my chin up—to keep looking up and stop looking at my feet.
“Where do your feet go? Down!” he’d say. “Your feet know where to go. Just keep looking up.”
“A great dance partner can be trusted to lead you in joy, beauty, and grace if you follow his steps. The Holy Spirit is not only the greatest dance partner of all, but He is also the choreographer. He created the steps and knows how to lead you through the dance of life. But you will have to learn to follow His lead. It may take some practice to get the steps right, but if you listen carefully to His instruction and learn to rest in His embrace, you will know which way to go. He can be trusted.”
It occurred to me as I read this that maybe I have trouble following the Holy Spirit’s lead just like I had trouble following the lead in dance class.
Sometimes, I don’t leave myself available to His leading. I may choose to cling to His Hand, enjoying my Bible study and prayer time, but refusing to go anywhere with Him. I may simply be unavailable, unwilling to follow Him and participate in the work He’s doing in the world. He may be nudging me toward a particular ministry, a particular good work, a particular act of kindness, yet I don’t go.
Sometimes I get ahead of the Holy Spirit. I think I know best, and I go off in my own direction, making decisions without first praying about them. I tend to try to do things in my own power, to stop looking up to God.
The dance of life would be so much easier, so much more graceful, if I would stop trying to tell my feet where to go, so to speak, and instead allow God to direct my steps and give me the ability to do what He asks me to do.
God had to teach him to stop trying to make things happen through trickery and just to trust. Jacob was lonely, discouraged, dejected, suffering the consequences of his schemes and deception when God gave him the vision that we call “Jacob’s ladder,” angels ascending and descending a ladder that reached to heaven. Jacob needed to stop looking at his own circumstance, stop looking at his own abilities, stop trying to figure out how to make things happen, and start looking up to heaven.
Jacob’s dance with the Spirit was fraught with missteps and poor timing because he tended to rush headlong into decisions without first consulting God. Later in life, when Jacob had to finally face his brother Esau, Jacob did pray, but only after attempting to find his own solution. In a state of emotional turmoil, he divided his family into two groups, reasoning that if Esau attacked, at least one group would be safe. Genesis 32 tells how Jacob poured out his heart to God, confessing his unworthiness, admitting his fear, and reminding God of His promise.
‘I will surely make you prosper
and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea,
which cannot be counted.’”
That night Jacob sent his wives, children, and possessions across the stream ahead of him. Jacob was left all alone, and that’s when he and the Lord had their own pas-de-deux. Well, it was more like a wrestling match than a dance, but the result was that Jacob realized his dependence on God, yielded to God, and changed the way he related to God. And, as an indication of the drastic change in Jacob’s life, God changed his name to Israel, which various sources translate as “he struggles with God,” or “God’s warrior” or “God prevails,” or “soldier of God.” His new name was a reminder that he struggled with the Almighty and finally learned to follow God’s lead.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
I Corinthians 2:10