Like many of my generation, I learned most of what I know about dancing from John Travolta and “Saturday Night Fever.” I suppose Werner and I could have taken some lessons in actual ballroom dancing – but who had time, what with work and wedding planning and going to Dead shows? Instead, there we were, our first dance as husband and wife, lurching around the dance floor as graceful as Frankenstein and his Bride.
My father and I were mutually apprehensive about the Father-Daughter dance. Dad had the skills; but, with failing health and weakening legs, there was no way he could make it through more than a few bars of “Spanish Eyes,” the song we’d chosen, Dad’s favorite.
On the morning of the wedding, he shared his worries with my mother’s cousins from Astoria, and the Ruggiero brothers came up with a plan.
When it came time for the dance, they watched, and waited. And when the picture-taking moments had passed, and they saw my dad struggling to hold his own, one of them tapped him on the shoulder and cut in. Soon, another cousin came along and did the same, and then another, each taking a few turns with me around the dance floor.
Those Ruggiero boys – could they ever dance! Even if I didn’t know what I was doing, they did. At first, I tried to make sense of it. I tried to use my brain to figure out the pattern, to learn the steps in real time. I soon realized, there was no other way than to just trust the leader, and let myself be led. To respond to a gentle push against one leg, or to the pull of a hand placed at the small of my back.
I didn’t know how to dance, but before long, I felt like Ginger Rogers out there.
I just had to let go, and let myself be swept away.
What would our lives, or our churches look like, if we would allow ourselves to be swept away by God? And, how do we even begin? Maybe we could start by spending as much time praying as we do in meetings. As much time dreaming as we do answering emails. As much time perched on sidewalk benches or vinyl-clad diner booths or bar stools as in our offices or sanctuaries. Maybe if we stopped trying to lead long enough, we might begin to discern God’s unspoken instructions, and feel the push and pull of the Spirit.
Ah, but being swept away can be so disconcerting! Loosening our grip on the illusion that we are in control, and falling into the arms of the Holy One. But I can’t shake the feeling that it’s in that very dance that we discover the steps that take us to who we were meant to be – and maybe even find the new rhythms of Christ’s grace-full church.
In her poem “I won’t take no for an answer,” St. Catherine of Siena wrote,
“I won’t take no for an answer,”
God began to say
When He opened His arms each night
Wanting us to
I’m ready to be swept off my feet. How about you?
The Rev. Luanne Panarotti serves as pastor of Pleasant Plains Presbyterian Church in Staatsburg, NY. She has one husband, two kids, one dog, five cats and two left feet.