I Am the Lord of the Dance, Said He

And come we again to Good Friday.   I apologize if my thoughts are disjointed; so am I, at the moment, due to the sudden attack of a rather befuddling cold.

I’m all prepared for Good Friday’s despair this year; I have my CD of Faure’s Requiem in my car, and I’ve had To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord stuck in my head all morning.  I’m even in black, as mourners should be.  I’m ready.  Bring on the dead God.

What a vain, silly little fool I am!  I have taken my synergy with this Passion and built it into a wall, created a charade, a front, a mask behind which I don’t have to actually deal with this day because look, I am feeling this day so deeply, don’t you see?  Don’t you see my grief for our crucified Lord?  Don’t you see how in tune with Holy Week I am?

Liar.  My body is fighting me, my soul is fighting me, my heart is fighting me; this is not embracing Good Friday.  It is acting Good Friday in an effort to distance myself from the reality that is Holy Week, that is this journey reenacted of a Man Who loved and laughed and died, died amidst the self-supporting satisfaction of a thousand voices calling for the destruction of this Truth that couldn’t be classified, that couldn’t be quieted without drastic measures.  All of Lent has been like this for me, this half-conscious parade of knowing what should happen and not having any of the energy to actually experience it.

And what is wrong with that?  I have other things to do right now; I don’t have time for your wilderness, your dinner, your death.  I have a cold.  Ask again in a month.

Interpreter has been trying so hard lately, may God bless him, to get me to think about my relationships with God and other people in the form of a dance for a number of reasons, but partly for the trust that partner dancing requires.  Objectively, the trouble I have with this is amusing because I used to be a dancer and I miss it terribly.  I was totally on the bandwagon when Riverdance had its heyday at the end of the 90s and early aughts; I had “Lord of the Dance” stuck in my head when I woke up this morning at 2:30, which was what made me think of the connection.  I knew the tune as the Irish dance song first; it blew my mind when I found out it was a hymn, albeit an odd one.  Have you ever sung it, Reader, and noticed the lyrics?  “I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black; / it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.”

In a long and totally unplanned conversation with Mr. Great-Heart earlier this week, we talked about this mourning phase that I do every year because I am the devil on His back.  I am the one who calls out “crucify Him!”, I am Peter who says I am not with that Guy, I am Judas who wanted the security of money instead of the uncertainty of a blasphemous hippie.  I mourn during Holy Week, and I hide behind the mourning, because I can’t face my part in this passus, this suffering.

Not news, right?  Guilt was part of my thing a year ago, so nods to not having made any progress—but that’s not it, not really.  I’m beginning to understand that a part of me has to acknowledge that complicity, not so as to beat the crap out of myself for it, but to know that I am still creating distance between God and myself.  I do not dance with Him, I do not trust Him, I do not follow Him when He goes down the roads that make me uncomfortable.  I choose my skin over His, not always and not irredeemably, but part of the intensity of Good Friday is that I have to face up to the ways in which I have not walked in the wilderness, the ways in which I get so angry with God when I am the one who is not listening.

What if I went through Good Friday knowing that Easter Sunday was coming?

What if I allowed the grief and intensity to exist in its space—because I do think the reaction I have with the whole mess is something I need to honor for the time being—and then left it behind?  What if we were to live as people with a risen Lord?

How many doors would that open, to know that I serve One Who lives, Who has defeated death, Who went through the most excruciating pain of physical torment and the dark blackness of being utterly alone so that I would never have to?

What if I believed in Jesus as Christ?

Having been at least nominally Christian for some five or so years now (actually, Easter will mark my 6th “birthday,” if we’re counting), it’s daunting as hell to ask myself how I believe in Jesus as Christ, but it’s also necessary.  When it is so easy for me to go through the motions become familiar and gloss the lyrics that make me uncomfortable, this relationship, this dance demands that I pay attention, that I weep when I am sad and sing when I am joyful, that I recognize that sometimes those can be at the very same time, that I back off of trying to own Jesus’ death or manipulate it in any way because I am not, in fact, lord of the dance.

God is.

Dance, then, wherever you may be.

And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man.”  (Luke 23: 45-47, KJV)

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2 thoughts on “I Am the Lord of the Dance, Said He

  1. Your struggles remind me of the writings of Kierkegaard. In his pseudonymous writings, he describes a “double movement of faith” that includes both resignation and reception, both a giving up and a taking back of the thing that is renounced. He illustrates this double movement in a monologue (I think it’s in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript) about spending a day at Deer Park. Most people who call themselves Christians would find nothing difficult about enjoying a day in the sun, he says, but that is because most of us take our religion too lightly. The first movement of faith is a step of renunciation in which we shun the pleasures of this world. Once we realize that fact and feel it passionately, only then can we understand how remarkable the second, defining moment of faith is: the step of receiving back joyfully the things that we have renounced. We can perform this acrobatic feat, he says, only as a gift from God. That paradox is what makes the double movement—and therefore fun in the sun—possible. It’s a miracle, he says, and only that miracle makes fun in the sun possible for people of faith. And yes, it’s a dance step. He calls it “the leap.”

    It rankles me when people talk about Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” as if it’s a jump into ignorance. For Kierkegaard, the leap is something altogether different. It’s a dance: the dance of joy that is only possible as a gift from the Lord of the Dance.

    May God give you the strength to join that dance, my sister.

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    • I think my philosophy prof from undergrad would faint with joy to hear me and Kierkegaard in the same sentence without “frustration” or “hate” being anywhere near it. That’s awesome, though, to hear that explanation of the “leap” of faith; thank you for sharing it with me, and thank you, as ever, for the encouragement. It is a much-valued gift.

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