Dancing With God
Have you become addicted to Dancing With The Stars? If so, you are in good company because there seem to be a whole lot of us watching. If not, let me share with you the premise of this highly-rated television program. In this second season, ten celebrities are each paired with a professional dancer who trains them in multiple ballroom dances, such as the Fox Trot, Rumba and Viennese Waltz, over the course of an eight week period. Each week the couples perform one or two dances live with a full orchestra before a studio audience and a national audience glued to their televisions at home. The dances are critiqued by a brutally honest panel of three professional judges, as well as the viewers at home, who may call in their support for their favorite dancers. The judges’ scores carry equal weight with the viewing audience’s, so it’s anybody’s guess each week who will be sent home as the competition narrows the field of contestants to the best and/or most popular. However the voting turns out, you can rest assured that each week brings glamor, glitz and guts.
My guess is you can get on board with the glitz and glamor part, but guts? How much courage does it take to hop around a dance floor in pretty outfits to obviously adoring fans?
In a word: plenty.
Consider a few of the participants in this grand adventure. Jerry Rice is a former National Football League wide-receiver. As Most Valuable Player for the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XXIII win, he is acknowledged as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Rice is the first to clarify that, as hard as football was some days, ballroom dancing is harder every day. Lisa Rinna is a former soap opera star who now, at age forty-two, is hosting a talk show, raising two daughters with her husband, actor Harry Hamlin, and has, by her own description, a “crazy busy life.” As the weeks have progressed, she has described various body parts as achieving Olympic proportions of pain. But she remains determined to reach for this goal, of winning the whole deal, and telling other women over forty that they can do anything they want to with equal hard work and determination. Stacy Keebler, a wrestler by profession, brings a natural talent to this newly-acquired skill of dance, and revels in the opportunity to compete with herself to achieve more skill, and more delight in this new endeavor.
All of these people have accessed their life’s work in very diverse and public forums. But in this dance venue, they have exposed their own personal creative process in an unfamiliar location. While comfortable in the skill of their individual expertise, they have chosen to lay bare their willingness to enter a whole new world, learning its rules and intimacies before millions of critics and a panel of experts.
Two thoughts have crossed my mind as I return to this program every Thursday and Friday night, watching the drama play out among the cast. First, I see the respectful, intimate bonds among this talented body of people. Secondly, it is clear how very much we can learn from them as people of faith.
Perhaps because each of these celebrities has attained success in their fields, they are secure with that, and they see their dance experience as a unified effort among themselves, not a divide and conquer publicity stunt. When they speak of each other it is with pride and warmth, often calling each other family. They support each other in triumph, and in less stellar moments. When the announcement is made on who will be going home, and will not be returning for the next week of competition, the sadness is palpable. Glitz and glamor and live orchestra aside, this is a genuine, albeit temporary community of caring, gifted people.
What we as people of faith can learn by the dancers’ example was placed before us long ago by Paul, the author of the first letter to the Corinthians. “Love is patient. Love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13:4-6).” When we each dance to the rhythm of the life for which we are created, we bring our whole selves to this thing we call Christian community, an adventure that requires all that we have to give. Even when we aren’t sure of our steps or of the beat of this larger experience, we are still connected to each other through, and by, our Creator. When we realize it, recognize it, believe it, live it, we are able to dance for joy, and dance with God.