To Dance with One Another

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H_Diana

We don’t dance in our house. And I miss it. Not that I was ever a “dancer.” I can’t follow choreography of any kind to save my life. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Jazzercize? Nope. I trip over my own feet trying to figure out whether that last move was to the right or to the left.

But when I was in junior high and high school, I went to school dances and I enjoyed moving around on the dance floor. I could do a few of the simpler dances of the day when the music was up-tempo, but slow dance? Now, that I could really do. I knew how to find the beat. I discovered I quite liked moving to that beat while being held by someone else.

There is something sweet and natural about moving slowly to music, held in the embrace of another. I can’t explain it; I just know it to be true. I didn’t date a lot, but the boys I did go out with all knew how to dance, some of them quite well. If the lead dancer is good, the weak dancer is home free. I quite enjoyed being home free.

I met my husband, God’s greatest gift to me, when I was a first-year college student. I loved his big brown eyes, his sincerity, his sense of humor and his commitment to his family. But he did not dance. And he was quite clear about that. Quite.

I didn’t get it. He was very coordinated, a gifted athlete. Why not at least try it? But my suggestion was met with a great big NO.

It took me a long to time to ferret out the reason why. He told me it that he never learned how to dance. His family and his church frowned on it, so he was never taught how to move to music. My parents came from a similar background, so neither of them knew a lot about dancing, either. Yet my mom wanted me to know how, so she asked our next-door neighbor to give me few simple lessons. That small gesture made it possible for me to jump over the gigantic hurdle of adolescent self-consciousness and go out there and try it.

No one ever did that for my husband. And the self-consciousness ran deep, deep, deep. He cared what other people thought about him. He knew he was a good athlete and he was unwilling to take the risk of trying something new to him, something physical that he might not excel at. A 4-letter jock all through high school, the embarrassment factor was simply too big a hurdle for this good man.

And it remained that way. After we were married I tried to convince him that dancing in the dark in our own living room would be easy. I thought he would enjoy it, and that the experience of moving while we held each other would convert him from fear to pleasure. It never happened.

To this day, I miss it. Sometimes I wonder why that’s true, and then I remember an old anthem we used to sing in my choral singing days. It’s called, “And the Father Will Dance,” written in 1983 by Mark Hayes. It has a lovely, minor key dance melody with lots of moving vocal parts and is based on Zephaniah 3:17. The translator for the text has taken the Hebrew verb for “rejoice” more literally than most (“to spin around with emotion”), and used the English word “dance” where most use, “sing.” That one little embellishment made both the text and the music come alive in me.

Zephaniah tells us that God loves us so much that he exults over us, he sings over us, he dances over us with deep waves of joy. When I first sang those words, something in me resonated with this deep truth: dancing is one of the purest and most divine ways to express our joy, especially as we find joy in another.

And that’s what I miss. I miss being held, moving as one to the music. I miss the touch, the embrace, the movement, the shared experience of satisfaction and refreshment. I miss the utterly unique way in which a dance can deliver a shared sense of joy unlike any other experience I can think of.

When I dream of heaven, sometimes I dream of a sweeping dance floor, covered with all kinds of people, holding on to one another and rejoicing as they move to the music. I think my husband will join me in that dance, don’t you?

(Here is a link to that old anthem, if you’re interested.)

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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  • Sonja Ruf

    This text touched me.
    I love dancing and i feel so much love and joy while doing it. And if one wants it can become a prayer of worship.
    Thanks for the article.

    • pastordt

      You’re welcome, Sonja. And I’m so glad dancing is a source of joy for you. And it absolutely can become a prayer. Absolutely.

  • Your words have made me long for a richer understanding of the references to dance in Scripture. Especially in the psalms, the writers seem to assume that its a knee-jerk response to God — “Praise Him with timbrel and dance!” Sadly, I think we’ve smothered that spontaneity. But isn’t it fun to see it in kids when they’re joyful!

    • pastordt

      You know, I think portions of the church just plain chose to skip right over all those references for a few generations – what a pity! And I think you’re right – it was a knee-jerk response to the goodness of God, I think. And I love to see it in kids, too – such a pity we lose that spontaneity as we age, I think.

  • Beautiful.

    Have you ever heard/sung “Lord of the Dance”? It’s another old hymn that sings of God as a dancer. It’s one of my favorite hymns.

    • Rea

      Ooh, I have! Love that song!

    • Donna-Jean Brown

      That song was my first exciting taste of “modern” worship music as a teenager in the 1960’s! I think it remains as a classic and profound metaphor of Christian theology. “Dance, then wherever you may be…I am the Lord of the dance, said He”

    • pastordt

      Yes, I remember that song – it was popular in the 70s and 80s, I think? What a great reminder – thank you, Alina!

  • Sandy Hay

    No one in my husband’s large family danced. But I did. Over the years my dancing desires had diminished to sweet visions in my mind. Now there are granddaughters who dance around my house and grab me as we swirl and laugh together. Thanks Diana for your perspective on God and life 🙂

    • pastordt

      OOOH, I love that picture of your grandgirls grabbing you for a dance, Sandy! You’re welcome – thank YOU for your always kind comments.

  • Rea

    🙂 I have the same problem with my husband. I love the idea of God dancing over us with joy, and us expressing our joy in return through dance and movement.

    • pastordt

      Me, too, Rea, me, too!

  • As a lifetime dancer I have to agree that there will be dancing in heaven! I know what you mean. I don’t dance much anymore and i ache for it all the time. The freedom, the way it expresses what words can’t. Dance as worship is so natural and unnatural at the same time. Being free like that in front of others or the Lord is hard for us, isn’t it?

    • pastordt

      I love this: “Dance as worship is so natural and unnatural at the same time.” So true! And yes, being free in front of others, even in front of ourselves!, is hard for us. Thanks, Nicole.

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  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Thankyou for this sweet contribution, Diana! It speaks to me because last weekend I enjoyed dancing with abandon at a Bangladeshi-Anglo wedding in Vancouver, a crowd of all ages happily dancing like fools together – oh yes it is a taste of heaven! I sympathize with your loneliness because my husband has no sense of the beat. However, over the years he has become a willing (awkward) partner, holding me on the dance floor. We were both raised in the same “Christians don’t dance” kind of church as you and your husband. May your guy be freed to enjoy the Mother/Father’s gift of moving to music. I love dancing in prayer to songs like Steve Bell’s “Lorica”version of the Prayer of St. Patrick.

    • pastordt

      Good for you! To dance with abandon is beyond my capabilities – but I love to see it. And the closest I come these days to ‘dancing’ when I pray is my almost-daily long walk. But I really do think that movement – even tiny movement! – can enhance our worship experience. Thanks for your comment, Donna-Jean.

    • What??? You were in Vancouver and we didn’t get to have tea? 🙂

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Diane, I love this post! I love your writing and insights, period. And
    how I resonate. I wrote a more humorous piece about my husband, Michael,
    and dancing. I hope to post it at The Consilium sometime. But Michael
    reminds me of that line of Kern’s song: “I don’t dance. don’t ask me.”
    So no longer do I, because his answer remains the same: “No!” It’s okay,
    because he does everything else (lucky me). But I get what you mean. I
    don’t dance well–not at all–but dancing makes me well. It’s mostly
    just moving around here in response to a praise song or some Broadway
    tune I might have on a CD. And in church, if there is a hymn or anthem
    whose rhythms rise to heaven, I can’t help my toes from tapping right
    there in the pew–right there before God and anyone who happens to
    notice. Dance, like music, like art, like poetry, has a heavenly cadence
    all its own, which draws us to The Lord of the Dance. I love that hymn
    and this rhythmic refrain:
    Dance, dance, wherever you may be
    I am the lord of the dance, said he
    And I lead you all, wherever you may be
    And I lead you all in the dance, said he
    Dancing
    if full of joy, and yes, I think you just may be right in your
    assessment that it is a huge component in heaven. Can’t wait!
    Love you, and thank you for such a spirited post.
    Lynn

    • pastordt

      What a lovely comment, Lynn. And I often think of that very song when I smile and think of my husband’s refusal to join in. And I tap my toes in church all the time. 🙂

      • pastordt

        Oh Nancy, that sounds like more than almost dancing to me! Good for you! Looks like we have quite a drive here of women whose husbands do not dance. All, well, everything else about the more than makes up for it, right?

  • Joy Howard

    This passage in Zephaniah was one of THE reasons I decided to keep opening my heart to God. The idea that He surrounded me (even in the pain and in hardship) with that much LOVE that He dances & sings was stunning & still is stunning to me.

    • pastordt

      Such a lovely passage! And I glad it brought healing and hope in a time of need, Joy.

  • smoothstones

    What I love about this post has nothing to do with the dancing part of it, but with your acceptance of, commitment to, and even joy in your husband…despite his refusal to dance with you. I love how you focus on the positive things about him. You are such an important encourager in my life, Diana, and you and your husband are such a great example of the long haul. Marriage has been so hard for me…so much harder than parenthood or anything else. Thank you for cheering me on in my efforts and for shining light along the way. Love you.

    • pastordt

      Marriage is not easy. It’s a great gift, but also the greatest challenge we face in life. Just today, driving to our granddaughters soccer game, we had some rather testy words in the car. He frustrates me, I frustrate him, but we’re here. And we will be here. We love each other best of all, even when we frustrate the heck out of each other.

  • Me too ! all of it… xx

    • pastordt

      Even the husband who doesn’t dance? Well, Bev, you and I have more in common than I even guessed!!

      • ESPECIALLY the husband that doesn’t dance, although I am a dancer in every way… with no one to dance to … and I’ve got the moves, girl!

        • pastordt

          I’ll just bet you do!

        • I think we need a dance party. All of us.

  • Sue Awes

    Well dear Diana – I could have written this too. Same non-dancing athlete husband – only difference is – he thinks he can dance! They could do a SNL skit on his dancing. But we don’t dance anymore. Blessedly in our church everybody moves with the music – and it’s there I find the grace that has now eluded me in dance – and I am definitely held. Thank you for this – I loved it – and it was fun remembering when I was graceful 🙂

    • pastordt

      Ah, Sue, you will ALWAYS be graceful! And I’d LOVE to see that skit, believe me.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I am yet another poor soul who never learned to dance. However, nearly every morning I do aerobics and strength training to contemporary Christian music and ALMOST dance! Many times I’ve rejoiced in God while moving to the inspiring, worshipful words. You are so right, Diana: Movement does augment the joy!

    • pastordt

      Well, friend, I tried responding to you from my phone, and somehow Disqus put it somewhere completely unrelated to your comment. I’m glad this resonated with you and that you’re learning the truth of it all on your own!

  • Hannah Kallio

    I was so excited when I saw that you had written about this, it’s something God’s been teaching me about lately. I had a lot of shame around dance since I’m also terrible at following any kind of choreography. But lately God has been showing me that joy isn’t a steady feeling of peaceful resolve like I was taught. The Hebrew word for joy means to spin and frolic. Joy is an action. God has been nudging me to dance; alone in my living room, with my kids, even in public worship. And I gotta admit, when I follow His prompting, I experience joy. Thanks for your sensitive look at this topic.

    • pastordt

      Oh, Hannah, I LOVE THIS. It does mean to frolic – and we forget that part so easily — maybe even intentionally?? I love that the shame is falling away and the joy is winning. Thanks so much for sharing this here – just lovely!

      • Hannah Kallio

        You’re right, I think it’s (at least partially) intentional. Isn’t it interesting how genuine joy leaves us feeling even more vulnerable than sorrow in some ways? Even though we aren’t well equipped to accept sorrow, I think we’re even less equipped to handle joy and pleasure.

        • pastordt

          What an interesting insight. Thank you.

  • Such great discussion here, Diana … I love dancing; my husband does not. But I dance anyway … You’ll find me in a circle somewhere at a wedding. Best dancing is when we worship in Uganda or Burundi or Kenya. Jesus knows what makes my heart sings. I may not be coordinated or choreographed, but dancing, for me, is moving in freedom and I love it.

    • pastordt

      Good for you, Idelette! I wonder what it is about African (and other) culture(s) that creates so much space and freedom for movement? Where did the western church lose that piece? It’s a huge hole, I think!

  • linda_marie

    I find this sad for some reason. I mean — I can understand a husband who doesn’t want to dance in public. But not at all? Not at home with his wife? Good grief. I wonder how many women watch sports with their husbands occasionally, without really enjoying it? It wouldn’t “play” so well if one spouse said, “I don’t do sex.” In fact the Bible even speaks to that. I guess I sort of believe the same principle applies to other areas of marriage…

    • pastordt

      Sorry you find it sad, Linda. Sometimes, I do, too. But when said husband brings a rich variety of other gifts and loving experiences, you tolerate it. We all have to compromise somewhere and this one was a relatively minor point, actually. And, as I’ve learned in this conversation, I am far from alone!

      • linda_marie

        You don’t have to be sorry. Each person has to choose their compromises in marriage. And I’m not putting anyone down. Just saying what I feel. I misinterpreted that it was a relatively minor point since you blogged about it. I would, though, like to respectfully suggest that your being “far from alone” doesn’t discount others who feel differently.

        • pastordt

          Didn’t mean to imply any of that – so sorry.

  • Elizabeth Nordquist

    Lovely reflection about truth and desire, Diana! May he Lord of the Dance lead you wherever you may be in the Dance of the Spirit, Much longtime affection for you!

    • pastordt

      Liz!!! How delightful to see your name here! Right back at you, long-ago friend. Thanks so much for reading – and commenting. I’ve tried several times to find a way to subscribe to your blog and have somehow missed it. But I do see your byline around the sphere here and there and always smile when I do.

      • Elizabeth Nordquist

        I left Patheos this spring, and am not blogging at my own sire: amusingamma.com. When you go to the site, there is a button on the right hand side that allows you to follow me regularly. it is lovely to see what you have been given, and how your life blossomed. My blog automatically posts to Facebook as well. Joy for the journey, my friend

        • pastordt

          Thanks, Liz – for the link and the blessing. And I’m going to have to figure out that automatic posting to FB thingy, too.

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