“Would you like to dance?”, asked the woman standing near me.
“Sure,” I awkwardly replied, undoubtedly failing at my attempt to be cool and casual.
Libby and I had gone with some friends to a local hall to have our first experience with contra dancing. This line-folk dancing form with a caller and live music draws a crowd every Friday night. A young adult who is really into it invited us. So, there we were.
Getting there a few minutes early allowed us to get some basic instruction from one of the organizers. A few expert couples joined us. The last instruction was to find a partner you didn’t know who could lead you through the first dance.
I obviously looked out of place enough to be instant bait for someone with a kind heart.
“My name is Laurie.”
“Hi. I’m Mark.”
“Are you nervous?”
“I don’t think so. Excited to try this out. And you’re brave to help me.”
I wondered if I should tell her about the time I nearly pulled a woman’s shoulder out during an unsuccessful swing dance class. But, I thought better of it. Let’s just see what happens.
So, we got right in front of the stage, at the beginning of a long line of couples, the music started and off we went. Following the steps given by the caller we did a series of coordinated moves, swings, and exchanges. My partner made it easy and she guided me through the whole dance, kindly correcting me when I was heading the wrong way.
I learned some valuable lessons that night that I’m eager to apply to any group situation, especially to church.
- These people were having fun. They were enjoying each other and it was contagious. Smiles, laugher, and uninhibited joy were the standards. There was an amazing lack of self-consciousness.
- Anyone new, unsure, or awkward was especially included with great intent and welcome. The experts acted like hosts, determined that the newest had a great experience. The joy the regulars got in involving new people was palpable. Even though it slowed them down to be partnered with someone new, they seemed to be happier in the other’s experience than in their on. (Read that last line again – it’s important.)
- Their example of dancing made me want to learn. In a dance you would end up dancing with everyone in your line. I noticed that when Laurie danced with another expert, her partner would spin her several times. And, I thought, I want to learn that –without knocking her over. Being in the dance, I got to learn the dance and I wanted to learn more.
- There was grace for foul-ups. The corrections were kind and helpful and immediately applicable. I was not expected to dance better than I could. But, I was expected to learn.
- You want to come back. And, you know that when you do, it will feel familiar. There will be friends there.
- And don’t forget the caller. The caller has a blast seeing the dance happen. The instructions are perfectly timed. As the dancers respond better and better to the caller, there’s an energy and power that seem to transform the whole experience. Dancers know that what they are experiencing something special.
Church should be like a dance. And the members – the expert dancers should be the hosts. And they should be having a great time, because we have an unbelievable caller.
Oh, I know, there will be missteps and mess-ups, but if you know that it’s a dance, you can find your place back on the floor.
Would you like to dance?
(Please share this post with a Christian – to invite them to host the dance at church.)