I was chatting with a friend the other day and somehow got onto the subject of dance. I recalled how in my youth, I loved to dance. I would have gone out dancing every night if I could have. I don’t know what it was about it; being at one with the music’s rhythm and another person I might have been dancing with, or even if I was just dancing on my own, within a crowd, I would find myself at peace with the world.
This is all a far-flung memory now, but I often notice spiritual references to dancing these days. I think they refer to the dance of life rather than the physical activity – but it is an excellent metaphor for observing the patterns and cycles of life as they unfold around us as in a dance. The way we react is like choosing the appropriate dance (response).
‘Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.’ Maya Angelou
‘Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf.’ Rabindranath Tagore
‘Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.’ Amit Ray
The popular hymn Lord of the Dance, written by Sydney Carter in 1963, has echoes of these sentiments. In his book Green Print for Dance he said he saw Jesus as a piper who is calling us. He sees a dancing pattern and shape in His life and words.
In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper, Sydney said, ‘I did not think the churches would like it (Lord of the Dance) at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far-flown, probably heretical, and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact, people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord.’ Today the hymn is widely enjoyed in English-speaking congregations and assemblies worldwide.
I can understand where Sydney was coming from as I see God in cycles and patterns. In the planets and stars that surround the world and the repeated pattern in other solar systems; the autumn, winter, spring, and summer; birth, life, and death; sea, clouds, and rain; patterns in minute pieces of God’s creation such as a flower appearing against all odds in a crack in a wall and all the intricate details that make that flower what it is. Set in the heart of God’s glorious creation is the cycle of love wherein people sow seeds of kindness to be germinated in the hearts of others by the Holy Spirit.
The YouTube link below offers a wonderful rendition of Lord of the Dance. It gives the gospel story in the first-person voice of Jesus, portraying his life and mission as a dancer and ultimately the Lord of the Dance.
For me, the central message of this wonderful hymn is in the chorus, I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he. This chorus, interspersed with the story of Christ’s life, repeatedly tells us that Jesus will lead us in the dance of life.
Because in life, as with dancing, things are never constant; there is always movement. Sometimes the dancer gets things wrong, sometimes they know the steps, and sometimes they make things up. Often they need to learn a new dance; sometimes, they lead, and sometimes, they follow. Sometimes someone steps on someone’s toes; sometimes, they get stepped on themselves. Occasionally the dancer sits out a dance or two and watches from the side-lines.
So life is like dancing and unfolds before us in many complex ways. We get to choose the response (the dance) that will be most effective in addressing the inevitable twists and turns we encounter; the gospel of Jesus teaches us how to choose the best response.
How do you respond to what you know of Jesus – have you discovered anything about him that you could dance with? You can find out more about Jesus at A Church Near You in the link below – or contact me to learn more: