May 20, 2018 – What Can We Learn from Ballroom Dancing?

I have a tendency to say yes to things that I don’t know what I’m getting myself into. Sometimes it turns out to be a blessing, like moving to Manitoba. Sometimes it turns out to be a challenge that I wish I had known before I said yes, like a dance class. Ha Na and I started Social Ballroom Dance for Beginner. It’s a ten week intensive program which covers basic Ballroom Dances such as Foxtrot, Waltz, Jive, Cha Cha and Rumba. We were looking for something both of us could enjoy together. Ha Na likes swimming, and I like walking. Dancing is something neither of us has ever been exposed to before, but we didn’t mind the challenge. Turns out, I have discovered how my body is not cooperating. Often I found myself desperately looking for a clue for the right steps, wondering why I got myself into this trouble in the first place. Ballroom Dance, for me, is like learning a new language that I had never spoken or heard before. Having some vocabulary words is not enough. You must know the grammar in order to communicate. The combination of short and long and fast and slow steps and the sequences is the grammar you need so you can communicate beautifully with your partner, otherwise you can end up doing a monologue, or speaking so vaguely that nobody understands.

What Ballroom Dance has taught me is so much more than learning the right steps. It’s the importance of coordinating. I cannot just improvise, dancing whatever or whenever I feel like it. The key is to create movements together. I am supposed to keep pace with my partner, so the two can always be on the same page, breathing and dancing together. I admit that I am not good at keeping pace with others. I often find myself impatient, moving faster than others, and wondering why they are where they are. I have preferred dancing on my own, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain of waiting or bringing myself down to the same level of others. So, it’s not surprising that I have had a hard time in the dance class, always being the first to wave my hand so the instructor could come and teach me over and over again.

Notice what happened on the Day of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus gathered in one place, waiting for what Jesus had promised: the power of the Holy Spirit. All of sudden, they experienced something extraordinary. In fact, everything’s extraordinary when we let the Holy Spirit breathe into each and every moment. The Holy Spirit filled the entire house where they were sitting, and they began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. If that was the end of the story, I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. Speaking in other languages itself didn’t make any difference. What’s amazing was what came after as a result of the event inside. There were people outside the house. The Bible says that they were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. At this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”

That was what happened on the Day of Pentecost. The people in the room were able to reach out to the people outside through the power of the Spirit. What could have been monologues turned out to be conversations. What could have been ‘dancing on my own’ turned out to be dancing with new partners. When the Holy Spirit is at work, we are invited to coordinate, keeping pace with each other, breathing and dancing together, and pairing ourselves up with new partners. What they were communicating was nothing like a small talk. They were communicating about what God was doing in the world. They learned the new language of God’s radical love which seeks new relationships. That was the invitation to dance with the Spirit.

The world is desperately in need of conversations. It’s extremely hard to find real conversations happening in politics. We see more monologues than conversations. Monologues in politics can kill people whom conversations can save. Last week, the Israeli military used excessive force, killing at least 58 Palestinians, including children, and injuring more than 2,400. That’s happened at the same time the US Embassy was formally relocated to Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of the formation of Israel. The two contrasting events were just 40 miles apart. We live in a world where violence and celebration happen in the same area. A celebration without room for a conversation is ‘dancing on my own’; it’s a dangerous self-love that brings more harm than good to others. So how can we celebrate The Day of Pentecost – the miracle of communication beyond the walls – when we constantly see how all of humanity suffers from the lack of conversations?

When the people outside the house heard those inside speaking about God’s deeds of power, they were amazed and perplexed, saying “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” I was encouraged by their different responses. The work of the Holy Spirit is not up to us. Despite our readiness or understanding, the Spirit comes to touch every heart and soul, each in its own time, to create something beautiful that we can’t do on our own.

We are almost halfway through the 10 weeks of dance class. So far, we have learned Social Foxtrot, Waltz and Jive basic. The first three weeks had been a total confusion. Last week, I got a thumbs up from the instructor for the first time. In fact, we were outstanding in the room when we danced Jive. I was glad that I said yes to the dance class. Although my body doesn’t cooperate sometimes I leaned the importance of coordinating with others. Keeping in pace with each other we can create a more just and caring and peaceful community for all. That’s what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do while dancing together.