GUIDANCE = God – U & I Dance. This acronym for “guidance” is not my own, and it has been circulating on the Internet in various forms for more than 20 years, but it is one that bears repeating. Partnership ballroom dancing is to me a wonderful metaphor for a Biblical marriage (Mark 10:6-9), which, in turn, pictures the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
In a fallen world, partnership dancing, like marriage, is subject to the influences of our own sin nature and of worldly distractions and idols (Mark 10:1-6). Before I was saved, my dance practices with my husband Richard were more like a shouting match than a harmonious collaboration, and our competitive energies and frustrations were mostly aimed against one another rather than at our actual competitors.
On one memorable occasion nearly 20 years ago, furious that Richard was not seeing things my way (because of course I knew I was right!), I stormed out of an evening practice session and proceeded to walk home. Never mind that home was about 5 miles away, through dark streets, and that I was wearing a skimpy practice dress and high-heeled Latin shoes, and that I didn’t even have the house keys.
After realizing that I wasn’t planning on returning to the practice, and that I was too “directionally challenged” to find my way home safely, Richard set out after me in the van. When he caught up with me he quietly but sternly asked me to get in, only to have another car stop and the driver ask me if this man (Richard) was bothering me! At that point I had enough sense to say “No, ma’am,” and to humbly get in the van and beg Richard for his forgiveness.
So before salvation, our stormy dance partnership reflected neither an ideal marriage (Colossians 3:18-19) nor the submissive and trusting attitude a believer should have toward her Savior (Proverbs 3:5; Romans 10:3-4; James 4:7). But in its pure and perfect form, dancing can be a beautiful illustration of both relationships.
The gentleman invites the lady with an extended hand; the lady accepts and moves toward him. He clasps her hand in his, protectively yet tenderly; she delicately balances her free hand on the support of his outstretched arm. He cradles her shoulder blade with his other hand, and she melts into their point of connection at the rib cage where she is keenly aware of his intended movement. He leads with power but without force; she responds by following with sensitivity, without tension or doubt.
Together they dance as one, creating a far more beautiful picture than either could alone. In her flowing, colorful ball gown, the lady resembles an orchid nourished and supported by a sturdy tree, able to sway in the breeze without separating from the stability and protection of her partner.
For all this to occur, the lady must completely and graciously submit to the gentleman’s lead, which is only possible if she senses that he can be trusted to always do what is best for her, even if it means sacrificing his own comfort or glory or putting himself in harm’s way to protect her. Most of the time, she dances backward, so she cannot see where she is going and must trust her partner to navigate around the other couples or obstacles that may be in the ballroom. Dancing on stage is particularly perilous, as she must trust him not to let her stray over the edge into the orchestra pit!.
Theatre Arts ballroom dancing involves even greater trust, as the gentleman balances the lady in overhead lifts (video). Sometimes their only point of connection is his hand on her back while she faces the ceiling, trusting him to balance her entering, during and exiting the lift, and not to drop her even if something goes wrong. If she panics or struggles, the shifts in balance make the lift even more dangerous and likely to result in a fall.
Despite the greater challenges of this style, Richard grew fond of it early in our dance career, for as he said, “When you’re overhead, you’re not in a real strong bargaining position!”
The Bible tells us that wives should submit themselves to their husbands, and that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19). The two go hand in hand – submission to one who loves sacrificially with an agape type of love. Why would we not willingly submit to One Who loves us so much that He gave His own life to save us? (John 15:13; Romans 5:8)
So not only is the dance partnership a mirror of the marriage bond, but also of the believer’s relationship to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives (Acts 10:36). He never imposes His will on us, but where He leads, we should want to follow because He alone is completely faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13), true (Isaiah 25:1; Revelation 3:14; John 14:6), and loving (Ephesians 2:4; 1 John 4:7). As in the dance, He always initiates (1 John 4:19), awaits our response, and then takes us further based on how closely we follow (James 4:8).
The outcome is up to us -- we can pout in the corner and refuse to dance. Or, we can begin to follow Him and then fall out of step or even flat on our face, because we listen to our pride and impatience and insist on making our own moves (Proverbs 16:18). Ideally, we accept His dance invitation and attune ourselves to His subtle signals, shutting out all distractions so we can swiftly and completely respond to His direction with sensitivity and commitment (Acts 17:28), following Him every step of the way.
He will give us guidance -- the wisdom, joy and fulfillment we desire -- if we follow Him (Matthew 16:24; 19:21,28; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; John 10:27). He is the one Partner Who will guide us through the dance of life with perfect grace and harmony until He safely leads us home.
Before Richard and I begin each dance practice, we pray that He will empty us of ourselves so we can yield completely to His Holy Spirit. We pray that we will dance together as one person, his leading and my following in perfect harmony, reflecting to each other and to our audience the love that He has for us. May this prayer also be the model for every precious moment we spend with Our Savior, following Him wherever He leads, trusting in His perfect direction, protection, provision and timing.