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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Following the Leader

I am not a dancer.  I mean, put on some lively music or take me to the club and I can shake what my mama gave me, but when it comes to the "5, 6, 7, 8..." kind of dancing I am terrible.  Part of this stems from the fact that I don't know my left from my right and the rest from my complete lack of coordination.  I'm not putting myself down; I'm cool with it.  I think by the time you reach your thirties it is important to have a firm grasp on your abilities and limitations.

Despite this handicap, I took ballroom dancing in college.  I needed another P.E. credit and it sounded like more fun and less sweat than, say, volleyball.  I had a friend take it with me and am pleased to say that we made an A.  It was a hard earned A; we practiced lots and lots.  While my partner was more coordinated than me, he not exactly a professional either.  At one point during the class, the instructor took his place to show us how to do a certain move.  Suddenly, I was amazed at how well I could dance.  Our professor was a slender guy, a few inches shorter than me, but he took command of the dance with a confidence and strength that was amazing.  I couldn't help but follow and, for a brief moment, I was a great dancer.  It was effortless.

Any great dancer will tell you that it is all about timing.  You can have all the passion in the world, but if you lack rhythm and timing, you should not audition for "So You Think You Can Dance."  Life is the same way.  We talk about being "in the right place at the right time."  We know if we leave ten minutes later than usual we are going to hit traffic and be thirty minutes late.  Timing is everything.

I am a naturally impatient person.  I used to say a little mantra to myself when I was stuck in traffic, in a slow line at the grocery store, etc.  I'd murmur, "God's timing, God's timing, God's timing."  It was in a clenched-teeth, under the breath sort of way, though and not very effective.  I was always in a hurry, always running behind, and it was always someone else's fault.

I'm not like that anymore.  I often joke that I asked God to teach me patience and, in response, He gave me Eddie.  It is hard to be in a hurry when you've got a kid in tow that is likely to throw up on you at any moment.  Slows you down and lightens you up.  It was an incredible freedom.

The other day I ran to Wal-Mart to pick up a brick of cream cheese.  I needed it for a recipe I was preparing that evening to take to a party just a few hours away.  In my mind, I was thinking of my time limits.  How long it was going to take me to prepare the cake, get the kids and myself ready, and get to the party on time.  I was in a hurry.  I hustled to the dairy section, picked up my cream cheese and headed for the check-out line, pausing only to pick up an "impulse buy" T-shirt on the way out.  I picked the shortest express lane.  I noticed that the lady ahead of me had quite a bit more than 20 items, but the line was still the shortest by far, only two deep.  Then there was some sort of problem with the person at the front; her card didn't work, she called her bank, etc.  The woman ahead of me looked at my brick of cream cheese and at her not-so-express cartload and gave a nervous smile.

In the old days, I would have been really ticked off.  I would have been throwing my hands up in disbelief at the card issues going on up front and how long it was taking for them to be resolved.  I would have thought she needed to cancel her transaction, step to the side, and then get back in line to do the whole thing over again.  I would have been thinking of how rude it was for the other lady to be in the express lane.  That she should let me with my few items go ahead of her.  Couldn't she tell I was in a hurry?

I'm not like that anymore, praise the Lord.  I smiled genuinely at the women ahead of me.  I've been there, both the lady with the rejected credit card and the one with thirty items in my cart, and I know it is awkward, embarrassing, and that a little grace is appreciated.  I struck up a lively conversation with the woman with an overfilled cart.  She apologized for misjudging the amount of her groceries.  I told her it was no problem.  I was in no hurry.  And it was true.  Because it really is all God's timing.  It took me an extra twenty minutes or so beyond what I had "scheduled," but I still made my dessert and got to the party.  A little late, but I got there.  God's timing.

I know it is a cliche, but it's a good one:  Life is a dance.  When I try to learn the steps and do it in my own power, I have two left feet.  I get hot and bothered, make bad situations worse, and exhibit anger and a lack of grace to those people who are "in my way."  Who knows what blessing we miss out on when we act this way, because we are stepping all over other people's feet.  We have a leader in this dance, a strong, confident, powerful leader.  His timing is perfect.  He is perfectly in sync with the rhythm of the world He created.  When we relax and follow Him, we become great dancers.  It is effortless.

I can't prove that my delay at Wal-Mart was a blessing.  I can't know if we missed out on a bad traffic situation or timed it just right so the kids wouldn't be cranky getting ready.  I know I made those ladies' days a little better, though.  That if I had been ugly and impatient, they would have left embarrassed and defensive, harboring bad feelings toward me in their hearts.  I didn't step on anyone's feet and that is in itself a blessing.  Just a little thing, but part of the rhythm of life nonetheless.  I trust the Lord of Dance with both the little steps and the big flourishes and praise Him that I can relax and follow the Leader.

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