Writers Note: This was originally published a year ago. The circumstances noted have resolved with the homegoing of both loved ones. As our family and friends have “danced” through the last year this reminder of mystery in life seems even more important to me.
(A) “religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite. – Jeremy Taylor
“Tutu, tutu!” our Grand-daughters shout, grinning from ear to ear. They want their little tutus on and music to begin. They spin, dip and bow often reaching for our hands wanting us to dance along. Sometimes we take those little hands and awkwardly move about the room while the music plays. Our long arms and legs struggling to match their short arms and legs. Giggles abound. Other times we watch as they spin and sway with huge smiles on all our faces. Sometimes, however, we just pick them up and swirl about the room dipping them backwards and pulling them up till their little noses meet ours. It doesn’t matter that our steps are not the steps of a formal dance. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have tutus on. It doesn’t matter if we know the music or not. It only matters that we dance.
Recently we have been thrust into a series of circumstances with some of our loved ones that we cannot explain, nor can we predict the next step. Music is playing that we have not heard before. After not feeling really well for a couple of months a friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer 3 weeks ago. Two weeks ago he entered the hospital for a biopsy and he is still there. The situation is serious and there have been many days when the medications and pain caused him to be incoherent most of the time. Many lives are directly effected as he is a husband, father, step-father and grandfather. All of those lives have been forced to join a dance to music they are not familiar with. All of them are experiencing fear, it’s natural. However, some of them trust the music composer and are haltingly taking steps as they focus on the rhythm of the music. They are reaching out and asking others to come along. They are asking their friends and loved ones to set aside some old music, as familiar as it is, and listen for new melodies. Others are still resisting the new sounds, with their feet firmly planted, refusing to tap their foot to the new rhythm.
With our friend in the hospital, the calls started coming that my husband’s mother was “not herself.” You need to understand that my in-laws have been “dancing” their whole life. They love music, many different kinds of music. Their favorite dances were dances that included lots of other people, like wedding dances. From the time they got married they “danced” with each other and as a couple, with all those around them. They played cards with other young families when money didn’t allow for going out very often. They raised their kids in amongst caring for other kids through a day care in their home, foster kids and eventually a youth center. When their own kids were grown and moved out of the house they continued to love on others, still attending high school sporting events, and traveling to college games of their kids and grandkids. They traveled to see the sights and visit old friends who had moved away. Several years ago health issues began to limit my mother-in-laws ability to get around. Macular degeneration creeped in beginning to steal her eye sight. Other health issues limited her ability to walk but they never stopped dancing life’s dance. They listened for life’s music each and every day. They continued to play cards. They just used bigger cards. They continued to tell stories and laugh, people just came to them more than they went out. Best of all they “danced” with each other every day. They didn’t know from day to day what music would be playing but they knew they would hear it and learn the steps together. I can see them as he pulled her to her feet and spun her to her scooter or commode. Some days they would waltz to the kitchen, other days it may have been a line dance, no matter the rhythm they found it and did it together.
In addition to all of this we have friends who quietly but excitedly whispered in our ear that a new song is starting in their lives. They are scared but have decided to dance the dance put before them. They have fallen down during this dance in their past but they are ready to try again, to listen and match their steps to this new song.
What does new music in our lives trigger in us? Fear, uncertainty, wanting to stick our fingers in our ears and not hear it? Or cause for a pause to listen, really listen, tap our toe and lean into the sound? To quote my lenten devotional “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole, “What does uncertainty trigger within us? What defaults do we gravitate toward when facing the unknown?…To change our defaults we must first address our theology of uncertainty. And to address our theology of uncertainty, we must befriend mystery. Anglican clergyman Jeremy Taylor is quoted as saying, (A) “religion without mystery must be a religion without God.” Mystery is a given for relationship between the Infinite and the finite. As we follow Jesus into uncertainty, we are free, in the words of Gerald G. May, to “join the dance of life in fullness without having a clue about what the steps are.”
When music starts and children are present you will rarely find a time when the children don’t pause to listen and then begin to dance. It might just be a toe tapping, or swaying but they let the music in and allow it to effect them. When is it that we stop listening for the music? Or probably more importantly when and why do we stop dancing to the music? It is possible to dance through life. I’m smiling as I remember doing the Tango in our kitchen with our son as we did the dishes. I think of a conversation we had with our friend who has life threatening cancer last night. He is hearing the music and is “dancing” with his family to be sure they know he loves them. I’m smiling as I remember my in-laws 57 years of marriage, all of it spent “dancing” to many different songs. Some songs they loved and some they did not, but all of them danced together.
“To dance when we do not know the steps requires us to value our partner above the performance. To dance in the dark demonstrates a lavish display of trust.” – Gerald G. May
Are you listening for the music of life? Do you trust God enough to not stop with listening but to dance to the music He plays for you?