“But what about when the dance doesn’t feel beautiful; when it feels hideously out-of-sync and disconnected, and the accompanying music seems to be made up mostly of minor chords and a discordance that’s dreadful to my tender ears? Like yesterday.”
“For you created my inmost being . . .” Psalm 139:13
This past summer, Scott and I took a few dancing lessons together. We had talked about doing this for over twenty years and then finally decided that this would be the year. It would be our anniversary gift to each other.
At our first lesson, the instructor told me that one of the hardest things for women to learn is to relax and let the man lead. I didn’t believe him. I’ve never been a strong leader or even had the desire to lead, almost always preferring to be led. I’m much more a follower than a leader. But when he started dancing with me, I was shocked to find that he was right. Over and over again, he would stop and reprimand me, saying, “Relax! Stop trying to lead. You don’t know the dance.” I would answer that I wasn’t trying to lead; I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing or which way I was supposed to go. And he would always respond with, “That’s exactly why you have to let me lead. I know the dance. You don’t. Relax and let me take you through the steps.”
I learned that I could do this better if I closed my eyes and just tried to feel the dance without anticipating any next steps, and the first time I was able to do this, the difference was staggering. This talented teacher made it seem like I could dance! It was fluid and smooth and exhilarating.
It reminded me of when I first learned to ride a bike as a child. I still remember, almost fifty years later, what it felt like to glide along all by myself that first time. It was almost exactly the way I’d always imagined flying would feel.
Dancing with this instructor who knew all of the steps and effortlessly guided me through them was very much like that, and almost immediately, I was struck by the relevance of the correlation between this experience and the spiritual walk in this very earthly life.
Over the next few months, this became a regular part of my life. I would continually focus on relaxing and allowing God to guide me through the unknown steps of each day. When I would unexpectedly find myself in the middle of a situation that was filled with uncertainty, I would whisper, “God, You created me. Hold me close and dance with me. You know my dance. I don’t.”
I became more able to believe the truth that He not only intimately knows, but even designs, every step of the unique dance for each person’s inmost being, and that He, and only He, can faithfully and safely lead me through mine every time. This concept catapulted my ability to trust God to a new level. And over and over again, I found myself in places of rapture as I would float along, feeling so in-sync with His will as I sensed, on a deeper level than ever before, the reality of His guiding me beautifully through each step.
It was so much easier to trust God after being led through a few of these blissful dance routines.
But what about when the dance doesn’t feel beautiful; when it feels hideously out-of-sync and disconnected, and the accompanying music seems to be made up mostly of minor chords and a discordance that’s dreadful to my tender ears?
About two months ago, after weeks of discussion and prayers for clarity, Scott and I had made the decision to commit wholeheartedly to the adoption of a little girl who had been born with significant medical needs. This little one with her shy smile and soft hair and tender eyes had never, even once in her four years of life, been seriously considered by anyone for adoption. Some adoptive parents had taken a look at her file, but each one had disappeared after reading the sections of that file which described the severity of her deformities and disabilities.
Scott and I knew we had the experience needed to care for her and help her reach her fullest potential. We knew that she would fit perfectly into our home, would be deeply loved by all of us, and would bring her own very special gifts into the mix that comprises our family to daily help shape each of us into better people.
Almost as soon as we began her adoption, we hit opposition at every turn—even as our love for her grew by leaps and bounds. Within a few weeks, it began to look very unlikely that we would ever be allowed to adopt her.
As the weeks passed, every time we hit a dead end, we would search for even the tiniest crack where we could try to force our way through the obstacles that stood between us and this child who had already become our daughter in our hearts. And we would press on until we hit another dead end, then search for another crack.
The problems almost all stemmed from the shifting attitudes in her birth country toward large families’ abilities to care for and truly love so many children. We continued hoping we would find that one brave warrior who was willing to face the giant and acknowledge that this child was worth fighting for. And over and over again, we encountered defenders of orphans who would state that, while they didn’t question our family’s ability to provide for and nurture one more little one, they feared the risks involved in tangling with the powers-that-be. Even though we could understand the importance of treading lightly so as to prevent anything that might affect their being allowed to continue reaching other orphans, we were desperately hoping that someone would have the courage to enter this battle with us on behalf of this very needy little one.
I began each day asking God to dance with me, showing me exactly where to place my feet, how to move my arms, when to twirl, when to sway as we trusted Him to clear, and lead us along, the path that would result in her salvation.
But yesterday, the last door slammed closed. No matter how we searched, there were no more cracks anywhere. No warriors ready to wield a sword for the sake of this precious one. Only a loud and definite and resounding “no” in response to our cries that we be allowed to give this little girl our name; bring her home; provide all of her medical care; tuck her into bed each night; bake her birthday cakes each year; love her forever. For hours after that, I felt nothing. Just a kind of numb exhaustion.
Then gradually, as I tried to sleep, I began to hear what sounded like the unsettling sounds of dissonance; my soul began to feel that I was caught up in what seemed to be an appallingly unchoreographed and completely random dance.
Somehow, even in the midst of this feeling of uncontrolled hopelessness, I sensed that God was still leading me through the steps. But in the pain, I found myself wondering why we had been asked to take this path, dance these steps, fall in love with her, before finally learning that all of our efforts were in vain. If we weren’t going to be allowed to make any difference in her life, after all, wouldn’t it have been better if we had never known about her and had never even tried to make her our own?
Our family loves C.S. Lewis’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Book four, The Silver Chair, contains possibly my favorite passage in the whole series. As the main characters in the story frantically try to decide their course of action concerning a command they believe they have been given, in spite of the fact that it could lead to their own destruction, they ask for advice from their guide, Puddleglum. His reply is based on deep Biblical truth:
“You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”
God didn’t ask Scott and me to pursue this child’s adoption as casual onlookers, but as her parents. This dance involved my accepting the responsibility of fighting for her as her mother. I have learned through the years that, if I won’t love the children He brings across our path with a mother’s heart, and if I won’t pray for them with a mother’s cries for her babies, then I’m not fully obeying or glorifying Him or fully loving them. And I know that He asks me to do this regardless of the pain it might bring later in the process. I want to get better at seeing that it’s an honor to be given the opportunity to cry a mother’s tears for these special ones of His. Even if I never hold them in my arms.
I know in my head that God is worthy of my trusting Him no matter how “not beautiful” the dance seems right now. Only He knows the whole dance. But my heart wants to cry out because of the pain of losing this daughter, the seeming injustice of the whole situation, and especially the probable future she now faces as an unwanted orphan who will never know just how much she really was loved by a family who tried to fight for her right to belong and to live a full and happy life. I have to keep dancing. I know this. I even want to keep dancing. Eventually. But maybe not today. Maybe for now, I can just sit and cry for awhile and try to find a way to ease the pain oozing from the new hole in my heart; a hole that will never, ever completely heal.
*********** This is NOT the end of the story! Read on to find out what happened next! “Do You Believe in Happy Endings?” *********