A Humble Dance

Humility, one of the most under rated qualities in our society but the most essential, if we ever want to learn anything or have meaningful reciprocal relationships.

In fact, as my husband and I have discovered, humility is essential if you want to learn how to dance with another person. By yourself, individual freestyle dancing, go ahead, strut your stuff, adlib; your reputation is in your hands alone. But with another person, an actual partner, dancing is a whole different story. It is a relationship, one that must be cultivated with a dose of humility.

This pas de deux (Dance for two) will challenge any relationship. Those who actually learn to dance, continue dancing and continue in their relationship, grow stronger–closer. But many retire their dance shoes to the back of their closets where they never have to face reminders of their folly. Hopefully, they do not retire their wedding rings, as well!

 Although often used as an excuse, a couple’s success on the dance floor is not dependent on some inherent natural ability to dance. Steady progress is made by cultivating communication, humility, and, of course, by practicing. Alas, dancing is an expression of the relationship between partners and their relationship to the music.

In the beginning of the learning- to- dance process, one challenge arises almost immediately. Someone has to lead. And women, it is not us. But before we cry foul, consider the difficult task of leading. The leader, the man, must not only memorize his steps, he must decide which move he is going to ask for next and cue his partner, subtly and smoothly but clearly, just slightly AHEAD of the music, while simultaneously  completing the final steps of the present pattern IN TIME with the music. Additionally, he must spot his partner, the follower, on turns and be responsible for navigating through dance floor traffic. Finally, he must make her look exquisite because SHE is the star! Still want to lead?

On the other hand, the follower has her challenges, as well. She, too, must know her steps and execute them with style, while staying attentive to her leader’s cues and dancing, usually backwards, in heels! Additionally, she must turn and spin more frequently than her leader, so, from the woman’s perspective, the dance floor often resembles a musical merry-go-round as the other dancers whirl about in a blur. Thus, her safety may depend on her leader’s constant peripheral awareness and sensitivity to her vulnerability.

Not surprisingly, partners often make mistakes. When this happens repeatedly, the conversation can sound something like this:

Man: “Why did you do THAT?”

Woman: “You gave me the cue.”

Man: “No, I didn’t. You weren’t following.”

Woman: “Well, you, obviously, weren’t leading very well.”

After this exchange, the dance turns into a dual, and no one has any fun. Each partner becomes defensive. Each wants to be right and blames the other.  Once more the inner Adam and Eve arise in us and to the Garden of Eden we go!

But with some humility, and numerous apologies, the learning process continues, and the relationship develops a heightened sense of humor and sensitivity to the other partner’s needs. Your pedicure may be ruined, and some bruises might materialize, but the relationship stays intact. Plus, you learn to dance, together!  So what makes the difference between discord and harmony in this endeavor? Humility. The willingness on the part of both people to recognize that the partnership, the union, and the goal are more important than being right or crying foul.

Humility is not easy, but it is powerful, and Jesus illustrates so perfectly this paradox. We tend to associate humility with powerlessness, but we are wrong. Our Savior shows us the power, the wisdom and the courage that can only come from a humble heart. He became the least for us.

He humbled Himself before His Father, and listened attentively. He followed beautifully. Jesus did not defend himself in front of His accusers. He sacrificed all His power and authority for a greater good, for our salvation. He defeated the grave. He outsmarted the prideful enemy by humbling Himself to die on a criminal’s cross. Clearly, Satan was not expecting this type of tango! Humility won. Unity was restored. Humanity was saved. Jesus was lifted up. And so the eternal dance continues.

And what does Jesus leave us as reminders of His love sacrifice? The music of His life on earth and that last dance with His disciples. A humble waltz, a foot washing and simple souvenirs—a cup of wine and piece of bread, humble but mighty mementos that represent how Jesus wants us to dance out our days, in humility, in Love and unity with our Blessed Savior and with each other.  

Lori Neuffer is a professor at Sacramento State University and a member of Westside Christian Church. Lori currently serves on our communion devotional team and as a member of our Celebrate Recovery Leadership team.

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