Summer is a great time for weddings! And along with the hustle and bustle of preparations, venues, family dynamics, travel, and celebrating with the bride and groom, there is always an opportunity for reflection! If we are married, our hearts are tenderized as we reflect on our very own vows that we made to our spouse. Sometimes we reflect on our music, colors, and the funny things that seem to happen before, during and after the ceremony. As we approach our upcoming Restore Retreat in September, my mind is continually focused on it's theme as I continue to study and prepare for "Awaken to the Pursuit of the Bridegroom." We hope that if you are in town, you will join us. I'm sure that today's blog will speak to you as most all of us can relate to dancing at a wedding reception! Today's Monday Musing is from one of our guest writers here at Restore Ministries, Margaret Kemp. She has a heart for writing what God speaks to her during everyday moments of life. It is my prayer that you will prepare your heart for "Dancing with the Spirit." -Sherry
I once took ballroom dancing classes at Ric Seeling’s Dance Studio. Ballroom dancing is different from the type of dancing we did when I was a kid. In those days, the dances required no physical contact with a partner— I could basically “do my own thing.” Line dancing was also popular; to line dance I had to learn certain steps and perform a routine, but there was still no physical contact. Well, in ballroom dancing, one partner—almost always the man---has to lead, and the other partner has to follow.
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.
First, there was the “Bubble,” an area of proximity to your partner. To understand the lead, you have to stay in your partner’s Bubble. If I got too far away from the Bubble, Ric would say I “went shopping,” (off doing my own thing.)
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.”
Recently I was reading the daily lesson in Kathy Drake’s “Come unto Me” Study where Kathy compares the Spirit-filled life to a dance. Kathy wrote:
“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.
To follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, I have to stay in the Bubble…to stay close to Him through Bible Study and prayer. When I take time to quiet my heart and sit in the stillness, away from distractions, God speaks. He may use His still, small, inaudible voice—words that I hear clearly in my mind, though my ears hear no sound. He may send thoughts that can only be from Him because they are saturated in goodness, peace and holiness. I may feel a prompting, and urgency, a nudging towards some good work. A memory verse may pop into my mind. Or sometimes, as I’m reading a passage of Scripture (maybe one I’ve read dozens of times) I gain new understanding. It’s as if little light bulbs are flipped on in my brain as the Holy Spirit enlightens and illuminates the Word. I know I have heard from Him when His communication leads me to acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Sometimes I tend to “go shopping,” though; I wander off in search of other things in life to delight, to entertain, to motivate, to fulfill me. But those things never satisfy for long, and I come away feeling empty.
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.
The patriarch Jacob was a man who desired, I believe, to do God’s will, but he seemed to have trouble allowing God to lead. Even before he was born, God planned for him to inherit the blessings which should have gone to his older brother Esau. But Jacob, whose name means “grasps at the heel,” or “he deceives,” didn’t want to wait for God’s lead. He got ahead of God and schemed to make things happen. First, he convinced his brother to exchange his birthright for a bowl of soup. Then, when his father Isaac was blind and close to death, Jacob impersonated Esau and tricked his father into pronouncing a blessing upon him---the blessing that should have gone to Esau, the firstborn. He had good intentions, but he anticipated God’s lead. All along God had planned for Jacob to have the birthright, but Jacob thought he had to manipulate circumstances to bring that about.
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.
Just when we think the dance with the Spirit is going to be smooth and carefree because we’ve mastered a few basic steps, God has new patterns for us to learn. Jacob spent a lifetime learning to let the Holy Spirit lead.
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.
“But you have said,
‘I will surely make you prosper
and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea,
which cannot be counted.’”
Then Jacob proceeded to select gifts—peace offerings—to send to his brother. Poor Jacob! He still believed that it was up to him to take the lead, to devise his own plan.
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.
I’m ready to end the struggle, to RELAX and to trust God’s leading. I’m ready to enjoy the graceful, exciting dance with the Spirit. I’m ready to go where He leads, believing that His choreography, His plan, is the best plan. Wherever we go together, I know I can rely on Him to strengthen and support me. I don’t know whether the music will be soft and tender or energetic and fast-paced, but I’m ready to trust that He will give me clear direction, if only I will wait for it. I know that if I follow His lead, the dance will be beautiful, joyful, and elegant. How about you? Are you ready to dance?
“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
I Corinthians 2:10
For His Glory,
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