Learning to Follow

In younger years,  I took twelve months of dance lessons. Every Tuesday and Thursday night was spent on a near-empty dance floor trying to make feet obey directions set to music. After the first few weeks, the instructor  encouraged me to try another hobby –  that dancing wasn’t a good fit. He pointed out that with two left feet and a stubbornness  that refused to wait for my partner’s lead, I wasn’t going to have dance partners waiting in line. Humiliated tears burned my eyes, but my heart refused to surrender.

Four or five months later, the instructor smiled and assured me that all my steps were right. Laughter rolled from my sore toed partner, who whispered, “Yeah, now you have to surrender control and let me lead.” He squealed in pain when the pointed tip of my cowboy boot delivered a swift kick to his shin. The instructor chuckled, stepped in, and became my dance partner for the next several months. He was a master at two stepping and even better at the polka.  And when he glided through the waltz, my feet followed – not always gracefully.  Gently and persistently, he built my trust until following his lead became second nature.

Through gentle pressure on my back, the instructor guided me through each turn, silently directing when to step backward, when to move forward, when to sidestep and most importantly, when to wait for him. First, learning that each touch meant something, and then learning to respond to the changes of pressure on my back and hand, the noticeable shift of his weight, as he led, was a slow and broken process. Some days, his toes paid the price for my uncertainty in following. Other days, we glided together through the steps, like minded, and I completely understood his every move.

Learning to walk with God is much like the delicate balance of a dance. God is a gentle and kind instructor. His patience as  He teaches His Word and His ways is impeccable. His leading is perfect. Even so, there are days when I can’t understand what He is directing me to do, and so I take a misstep. Other days, my stubborn heart refuses to surrender to His will. I fumble my way through the day without spending time listening to His voice through His Word, convinced my ways are best. My anger and  disappointment grow as my eyes become focused on myself and what I want. Once again, I fight with God, trying to usurp His authority and take the lead from Him. Those are hard days.

Thankfully, God never gives up and never tells me that I am a hopeless case who will never learn His ways. Instead, God consistently gives opportunity to learn His voice, the subtleties of His direction, the certainty of His promises. Every morning, with my Bible open, He instructs my heart and assures that He has a plan and purpose for every moment. My faith flourishes as He gently teaches me to follow His lead. He is good and His ways are right.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;  I will counsel you with my eye upon you.                                                                                            ~Psalm 32:8

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when He delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.                                                                                                                                                            ~Psalm 37:23-24

Just like my dance instructor guided me through the steps with gentleness and kindness, patiently teaching me that waiting was just as important as moving, God guides me. “And your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 ESV) Moving in step with God becomes easy as I listen to the truth of His Word. But waiting? That is still a struggle.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!                                                                                                                                          ~Psalm 27:14

Wait. That was hard in the dance and it is just as hard in life. Waiting on my dance instructor meant that I believed that he was going to lead, that where and how he was going was good. Learning to wait in my walk with God means I choose to believe that He hasn’t forgotten me even when circumstances shout otherwise. Waiting means trusting that His ways are good, and that He is leading, even when I don’t understand how. Quiet trust develops as I am still, believing Him especially in the places where He seems silent.

Oh, I haven’t been perfect at this waiting … that is how I came to be an addict. After months of night terrors and flashbacks, my pain won. I self-medicated. By the time regret over my sin had settled into my heart, my body needed the drugs. Awful. So, from experience I speak. Wait on the Lord. His grace is sufficient even if you don’t, but waiting, even though seeming foolish, is the wisest thing any of us can do!

And for you, today, whatever you are facing, God is the same. He desires to lead you and guide you. His hand is upon you directing every step you take. Some days it may seem hard to discern His instruction, and on those days, try patiently and quietly waiting. Just wait. Sit back, acknowledge that He is God, and wait for Him to direct you. Pray, ask Him for His wisdom and guidance (see James 1:5) and seek Him through His Word.

Oh Holy and Living Father, today we thank You that You are always with us, that Your ways are right and good. Thank You that even when we can’t see, we can rest in the truth that You are guiding us; You establish our steps. Today, Father, I humbly ask You to strength us as we wait for You to lead and guide us. Help us remember to be strong and courageous because You are with us. We ask, Father, that You give us ears to hear Your voice saying “This is my way, walk in it” and that You give us wisdom to follow. In Jesus’ Name I ask these things. Amen.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Learning to Follow”

  1. What a beautiful image! I’m not much of a dancer, but I have danced with men who knew how to lead. It is subtle. In a world moving quickly, the waiting is hard–but worth it. Great thoughts. Thank you.

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  2. Lovely story and analogy! I’m not a dancer by any stretch of the imagination. But my Uncle Jim was. One time, he took me on the dance floor. I didn’t want to. I was too embarrassed, because I figured I would not at ALL be able to follow. He guided, exactly as you describe. I’ve never enjoyed dancing so much in my life. He made it easy.

    Thank you for the memory, and for pointing me to Jesus, as always! ❤

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