Have you ever gone hiking and stayed out too long, and had to find your way back in the dark without a flashlight?
For most of my life, I have had this as the picture of how to follow God’s leading. I know He has a plan for me, but I also know He would only give me a few steps at a time. So I spent my energy trying to listen carefully for the voice of God to speak direction to me. You see if only He was the one who knew the path I needed to take, then I would be walking in the dark, having to trust my every step to Him. I had to have Him tell me every step in order to find my way up the imperceptible path of God’s plan for my life. I just knew that a misstep could result in damage to my person and to my ability to be in "God’s will." This view of God’s leading left me frustrated with my ability to discern God’s will, and angry at God for His lack of concern over my predicament.
Typically this is how it looked: I would set out to discern God’s will in my life. I would listen, I would pray, I would extend my heart to the breaking point in order to get some word from God. Upon hearing some bit of direction I would head down that road. However, after a few steps my world would start spinning around me! Then I would feel a pull in another direction. This would repeat until I became so frustrated and angry that I quit trying to hear for a while. Once I calmed down, and the fire in my heart was rekindled for God, the whole process would start over.
What could be done? Ultimately, my heart’s desire was to follow God, but obviously I could not handle this pattern much longer. It created in me a sense of failure every time I "missed" God’s direction.
Then my swing-dance partner spoke into my life. She told me in passing that she had often viewed God’s leading not as one being led down a path, but God leading her more like a dance; just like when she and I danced. When we danced, she did not always know which peripheral "move" I was about to lead her into, but by leaning on me she was able to effortlessly complete it- so too with God’s leading. By keeping a connection she is able to guess what is coming next. But here’s the best part: If she is guessing wrong, and we miss "the pretzel" or some other step, we are able to improvise, and then later in the song try again. Nothing has been lost, and the dance is enjoyable throughout the whole song.
Now with this perspective, let’s look again at God’s leading.
I long to know God’s will for my life, so I pray, and listen, and extend my heart in order to discern God’s voice. I feel Him leading me in a direction, so I take a few steps, then He spins me around, and I am dependent on Him for my point of reference and balance. Then He leads me in another direction. Even when I feel down and depressed, He lifts me up, and the world witnesses a grace-full dip. What if I misstep? Well, we improvise together, and perhaps find a new move. Then later in the song, we try the step again. Oh and the song? It’s the one He sings over me (Zephaniah 3:17).
Where before my perception brought me frustration and anger, because I felt like I was being "jerked around by God;" now in the same circumstances but with a different perception, I am filled with joy and peace! I can enjoy God’s presence and be dependent on Him as He grace-fully leads me in the dance.
As you seek God for direction in your life, listen carefully, and you will hear your bridegroom say, "May I have this dance?"[Timothy is a Graphic Designer from Tulsa, Oklahoma who loves swing dancing, Nat King Cole, and his beautiful swing dance partner. He has a passion for discipleship, worship, theology, and strawberries.]