Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 17, 2004

evening

Wind blew ever increasingly throughout the day, a cool breeze. At dusk the clouds briskly came in, a moist veil covering the land, mist moving through the valleys. One might find a perfect day in other places, but only perfect for those places. This was a day perfect for this place, mountain weather at its most beautiful, inspiring. Reds and whites mixed as the sun went down, the wind brought with it the smells of a forest alive. Firs are bursting with new growth, fringed in light green shoots. The pines are gone and the rest of the trees thrive. Then there is the oak which was split in half by a falling trunk, barely a tree itself, it had only reached about ten feet. Spreading wide what remains, reconnected by caring hands, it sprouts large green leaves throughout. It is not the fullest of the oaks, but the fact it lives still despite a death blow inspires.

I stayed diligent throughout the day, wading my way through the various tasks, inspired and frustrated variously, seeking only to do what I feel called to do, whether with joy or with discipline.

There is much which comes from releasing that which we hold dear, freeing the soul to embrace the emptiness, holding loosely on that which demands our attention.

It is an art, one which takes time, an art of life which is led and freed by the Spirit, a dance of controlled ecstasy. Free within obedience, the obedience bringing the freedom just as exercise brings strength and endurance.

This requires a transformation of being, more than words, more than acknowledgement of principles. That is the trick. We think just because we adhere to doctrine we understand. This is a long journey, much longer than a sentence spoken. I am only beginning to taste, my eyes are just now opening, after so many years of focus. Only now am I releasing, my heart as much as my actions.

There is peace in releasing, in letting go, in taking this life as it comes moment by moment. Instead of comparing myself to others, I learn to compare myself with my goal, the prize which calls me heavenward in Christ Jesus. That is the only marker, the only canon of my soul. When I finally believe it, then that will be a day of rejoicing.

Now, doubts still abound, my mind seeks and falls. I struggle to slog through the muck and mire, much of which I have myself created. I wade through all of this, hoping to find light, to find maturity, to find hope fulfilled, to find freedom. I cling to obedience, and pray I am listening right.

It seems right.

morning

It was three thirty when I first woke up. Dark, at least it should have been. A neighbor has a light on, a light which shines into my room, lighting it up like an urban domicile. I am offended, and yet feel a spiritual lesson involved, patience learned with irritations, something I have not borne well in the past. I turn on my own light and read, read theology, difficult theology, wonderful theology which stirs my heart and mind. It always is a sign of an author I appreciate when his or her words spark my own thoughts, carrying me away with and beyond the words on the page. That is why I like Pannenberg, though I have neglected to read his works for a long while. Back at this this morning, in the wee hours, and drifted along space and time for the effort.

Then I fell asleep and awoke again. The sun was up, if not out, a hazy overcast day with wind blowing strong. No visitors on the balcony this morning, the songs of birds muffled with the breeze. Still the haze remains, with the sun peeking out occasionally. The wind is cool, my neck is sore.

I was thinking about time this morning, or prompted to rather by Pannenberg’s thoughts on creation. The enemy is time to many, something to be conquered and overcome, something to be halted and reversed, the scourge of beauty and accomplishment. I’ve always thought of time as being that which reminds us of our own finitude, we feel the decay and ravages it brings and thus mark it until our own demise, always dreading, pulled in its inexorable flow. Especially in our era this is true, an era in which time and space have been tamed, distance and patience become vices to success.

Then I considered eternity, how time fits within all time, time beyond time. Is there a constancy, or something else? What is time within eternity? If we are presently within eternity, if not fully realizing its reality, how can we transform our perspective of time to match the fullness rather than the present? Time of course is not an evil in all things. Music for instance. Time and rhythm is the heart of music, the foundation. One doesn’t regret time in playing a symphony, one dwells in the time, one dances, delights, in the regularity of the progression. The song is based on time and rhythm.

So too we have these beats which we live within. The song of our lives is marked by day and night, week and month, year and decade. We have those tasks done daily, setting a pattern within the time offered. To transform our perspective of time from enemy to friend is a spiritual task. This is the goal of the liturgical year, celebrating the rhythms of spiritual events, letting these settle within so our own spirits sing in accordance with the melody of the divine.

Yet, there is more to this. Well, at least more to embracing this for me. I feel the beginning musician, knowing definitions but not yet natural responses. I define the movements of theology, only cannot yet dance within the wonderful rhythms. I can name the notes, define the terms, and have still to practice to make the music my reality.

In those moments of epiphany I get it, those rare times in which heaven opens up and I feel the flow, sing along in harmony, time itself becomes an ally. To walk in a way which this remains true at all moments is the mark of the spiritual person.

I’m learning. It takes regular practice of the scales, and focus on the tasks. Then it seeps into your soul, and you master the movement. Such a goal, such freedom based on persistence and the master leading and teaching all along.

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