Sometimes I think I’ve figured out what God is up to. And I sort of wink heavenward, like me and God, we’re in this thing together.
It made sense, after all. Every last detail of the mom conference was carefully planned with specific goals in mind. We wanted these weary, heavy-laden women to hear the truth that sets free. We wanted to affirm them in their life-giving choice to love and raise their disabled children in the midst of a culture that ostracizes them and considers their precious sons and daughters cursed. We wanted to honor them, lavish them with gifts, serve and pamper them. We wanted them to relax and laugh and have fun. To feel loved and lovely.
So we brainstormed ideas, and one of the team members suggested we set aside some time for dancing after the first evening session. Would I be willing to teach the moms a few line dances, and maybe some Latin steps?
And I thought, what a great idea! After all, some of the moms might feel distanced from me, either because I was the official speaker or because my faith position felt like a threat. What better way to break down barriers than to play some snappy tunes and kick up our heels together? Good one, Lord! *wink*
Yep. Sometimes I think I know what God is up to. But who can fathom the infinite layers of His wisdom? Who can see His gloriously grand design? When will I learn that my perspective is a mere pinhole, while He sees all and rests in His sovereign love, bringing to pass plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness?
“Of course,” I said, “I’d love to lead a time of dancing.” And I winked through my pinhole, and no doubt God smiled patiently, and then, a couple of weeks before our scheduled departure, someone else on the team had another idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to teach the moms a dance they could perform for their children at the banquet on the final night? Because in this culture they often express their gratitude through performance, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could give their children this gift? Would I have time to choreograph a dance?
“Oh, sure,” I said. “That will be fine.” But I shot a questioning glance at my pinhole and thought, really, Lord? This is a whole new ballgame. This is much more involved than freestyle party times. Now I need to select music and create a dance that’s challenging enough to make them feel proud, but not so challenging that it overwhelms and frustrates them. I know nothing about their ability or willingness or how long it will take to teach them this dance that doesn’t yet exist. And You do remember I still have to finalize my messages, and we leave in a couple of weeks? But hey. I’m sure You have Your reasons, Lord, and we’re in this together. Right?
But my wink feels a wee bit sheepish.
Proverbs tells us the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Apparently this is true of dance steps as well. At any rate, the music came together (with a little garage band assistance from my sister), and the dance moves came together, and I downloaded the song to my phone and burned a CD, because I had no clue what the facility would be like, or if we would have a sound system, or about anything really. This pinhole doesn’t allow much scope of vision.
And the first evening, after I shared our story, and they realized I understood their brokenness and had tasted their grief — after they’d heard that there’s beauty to be found in the ripples if we’re willing to look past our pain and loss — we invited them to cast off their sackcloth and be girded with gladness. We pushed the furniture aside and turned on the music (because, of course, one of the local staff members had a computer on hand with great speakers, and even though the text was all in Russian, I could still press “play”), and we danced.
Some were eager and some were shy at first. Some caught on quickly, and some sort of did their own thing, but it didn’t matter. We’d heard words of life, and now we were living — letting the music move our feet and lift our hearts and take us straight to joy, where sorrow didn’t stand a chance.
They entered the dance fully. Entered it with lightness of heart and laughter, and the words they’d heard took wing. Because this was about much more than perceived barriers coming down or a level playing field or anything else my pinhole imagination had envisioned. This was a story brought to life before their eyes. And He’d known it all along. Known that the dance would reveal what words can only hint at. That redemption is real, and broken hearts can be made whole and beautiful. That joy is out there, sparkling on the ripples of our lives, waiting for us to shake off our shackles, step out on the waves, and to find Him there.
They danced that first evening, and then every spare minute they practiced the dance, and then on the final night? The gift. Dressed in their best, their faces radiant, they assembled on the floor. Love shone in their eyes. Love and acceptance and a new appreciation for God’s ways. Love for these dear, pure-hearted souls seated before them — His gifts to them. They danced with abandon for their children. And there were gasps and shouts, and the dear believers who’ve labored long, and prayed and hoped, but never imagined anything like this, wept tears of joy at the beauty, the wonder, the miracle of this moment. Because they saw with their own eyes that curses had turned into blessings, burdens into gifts, and long, weary years of mourning had been turned into dancing.
We had asked for healing. We had asked for freedom. We had asked that they might taste grace, but we’d asked too small. None of us, with our pinhole vision, had seen what was coming.
None had seen, but One. This holy, majestic, mysterious Lord of the dance.
So I bow low in worship and in gratitude. I bow low before the God of the universe, who sits enthroned over nations and peoples and tongues, and who reigns in perfect love over everything His hands have made. Bow low in humble confession that His ways are higher than mine, and that I don’t have Him figured out at all, and what a wonder that He takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor and sweeps me up into His glorious purposes, small and pinhole-visioned as I am.
I bow low, and He reaches down and lifts my chin, and I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure.
* * *
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and worthy work in Kazakhstan.
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(With all my heart.)
photos courtesy Catherine Burns