Lord of the Dance / by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

This comes from an article by Doreen Miller, spiritual director at Gingrichs Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania. It really struck me with its directness and realness, neither sensationalizing nor covering up one woman's difficult experience of finding God. It's not long, so I invite you to read slowly, as I don't think Doreen wastes any words and I found each sentence to speak volumes.

Misty (name changed) was referred to me for spiritual direction by a counselor. Raised in a Christian family, Misty had recently been devastated by a completely unexpected misunderstanding and relational break with a beloved sibling. Now in their thirties, the two siblings had always been very close — best friends. It was an overwhelming grief.

Despite doggedly continuing in her usual routine of daily Bible study and prayer and weekly church attendance, Misty was gradually sinking deeper and deeper into despair. Increasingly, her husband found her curled up on the floor, immobilized by hopelessness. Not even caring for her cheerful, talkative four-year-old could distract Misty from her pain and loss for long.

As usual with spiritual directors, I listened with love to Misty’s story and then asked a series of open-ended questions.

What was happening in her prayer life?
She had a hard time praying now … just said the words and went through the motions, with no sense that God heard.

Where did she see, hear, or experience God nowadays?
She wasn’t sure. God seemed very distant…or maybe even completely absent.

Where did she see, hear, or experience love then?
Her husband was kind but didn’t know how to help. She didn’t want to worry the rest of her family. Her friends were at a loss.

What did she want from God? 
Relief! Just relief from this pain! Some sign of hope!

What DID bring her joy? Anything? 
Surprisingly, she still enjoyed dancing. While a missionary with her husband in Europe, Misty had learned how to ballroom dance in order to establish relationships and engage the culture.

Tell me about it. What does dancing feel like to you? 
Dancing feels like freedom,” she said. “My partner holds me lightly yet firmly, and all I need to do is respond and follow. I just lean into his leading and trust. Never quite knowing what’s ahead, my body has been trained through years of practice to respond to a little tug here, some slight pressure there. Together, we flow and float with the music as I respond to the gentle yet persistent touch of his hands.”

Ah…Might God be there? Return to the dance. Pay attention. Might God be there? 
[Silence, then tears] “Yes,” She said. “Yes, God’s there. Holding me. Leading me. I am not alone.”

What an unexpected surprise that I, a Mennonite spiritual director, would watch God gradually heal His daughter’s heart over the ensuing months by dancing with her! God literally danced the Night away.

I love that image of the Spirit leading us in a dance, something that we have learned and practiced but that also expresses our deepest rhythm, a flowing exercise in unconscious mutual understanding. Not all of us can dance, but may we all feel the embrace of That loving grace.

Joy be with you all,
Andrew