I don't dance (but maybe I should)

A few weeks ago, I attended my nephew's wedding. At the reception, there was music, a DJ, and an open dance floor. Practically everyone took advantage of the opportunity to cut a rug - men, women, boys, girls, old people, young people, people who could dance, and many whose dancing skills were, well, marginal. There was even one young man in a wheelchair who moved his arms around joyfully with the help of another family member. It was quite the celebration.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

I wanted to join in. I enjoyed the music. I bobbed my head and tapped my toes. All from the safety of an inconspicuous spot on the perimeter of the room. Why? Because I don't know how to dance and I was self-conscious, fearful of making a fool of myself. This may be a good place to mention that my wife and I were once asked to leave a dance class because our lack of coordination posed a safety hazard to the other participants. (OK, that may be slight exaggeration. Truth is, we were so out of step during an exercise in the third session that we bumped into another couple, nearly falling and taking them down with us. We finished that night, but after that, resigned ourselves to our status as non-dancers.)

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. -2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

My fear of failure keeps me off the dance floor to this day, even though it looks like fun. I'd love to be one of those people who jumps in and tries things with no regard for what other people think, but let’s face it – I’m just not that cool. And apparently becoming a good dancer has never meant enough to me to develop the skill to the point of alleviating my risk of embarrassment.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18 (ESV)

That said, there are some areas of life where the stakes are simply too high to remain paralyzed by my fear of messing it up and looking silly. For those, I can and do justify practicing until I reach a level of competence, if not proficiency. For example, when it comes to living out my faith in a way that it sloshes out on the people around me, I have a litany of mistakes that is quite lengthy. But the Lord keeps inviting me back. And I keep returning to the scene of the crime because I believe it's important.

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…. -Ephesians 6:19 (NIV)

In September, we will begin a discussion of discipleship. I’ve seen a lot of definitions and descriptions for the word disciple, but one good one might be the willingness to keep fighting through my failures in my quest for Christ-likeness. Thankfully, the Spirit is a very patient teacher.

Scott Thompson