Then he [Jesus] told them what they could expect from themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am….Follow me and I’ll show you how.” Luke 9:23 (The Message)
As I mentioned in my previous note (posted here if haven't read it yet), I draw from my experience teaching ballroom and partnership dancing in how I relate to God. I've been ruminating for several weeks now on what it means to follow God and His will for my life, and relating it to how a lady must learn to follow a gentleman in a social dancing situation. For me it comes down to one word - TRUST - but I find that trust is sometimes harder in the application than the concept. So I started breaking it down - that it starts first with focus. I have a phrase on a vision board in my room that reminds me of this daily - "FOCUS ON
WHAT MATTERS". This reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to love him, to love people, and to love myself.
Secondly, it is important to stay in the present, and celebrate the place God has me in right now; and to be aware of the traps of trying to anticipate every next move God will make in our lives. Or in my impatience to bring a dream or goal to pass in my own strength, instead of waiting on God's timing. And that brings us to Part Two: The Reality of Leading.
The Reality of Leading
Lest you think that this note is solely focused on the ladies and following – let’s talk a moment about the gents. The reality of leading any social dance is that unless you are performing a completely choreographed routine that has been rehearsed and practiced extensively, you will seldom have an idea of what is coming next. In social dancing, a good leader typically can only think about three moves ahead.
When I follow God’s lead I find a similar twist – He only reveals my next few steps – but not the entire picture. I might have a general vision to create a new project – just like I might know the song I’m dancing to is a Cha Cha – but the practicalities of bringing that vision to pass are given step-by-step, in bite-size chunks, one move at a time. I’ve realize that God doesn’t want me to get ahead of myself – to try and accomplish the vision in my own strength – but instead to trust Him, trust His timing, and to focus on Him more than on me.
SIDEBAR - On the subject of timing (I get asked about this a lot): It is the gentleman’s job (i.e. leader) to establish the timing of the dance, and to be on time with the music. It is the lady’s job (i.e. follower) to be on time with the man (not with the music). This is an area we ladies can take months and years to give up control in – but it is necessary to develop a good partnership. And in a great partnership – the man’s steps will be on time with the music; and the lady, if she is truly following, will always be slightly behind the beat of the music, because her foot will hit the floor a split second after the gentleman’s foot. If the lady is more focused on being on time with the music than being on time with the leader – she will end up ahead of the gentleman and is essentially “anticipating” the steps again.
Do you see how this parallels our relationship with God? He is in charge of the timing of our visions and dreams. He is the one who guides our steps, indicating the next moves we should make. He is the one who opens doors and pathways, and protects us by closing doors, or moving us to a wider more open space on the dance floor of life. Which brings us back to our role - as followers, it is our job to keep in time with THE Man, our perfect leader, Jesus Christ…….Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t so much of a side bar after all. ;-)
When God Leads Your Vision
A good follower can dance at a higher level than she has actually learned (i.e. more complicated patterns). However, a leader can only dance those patterns he has learned to lead – and so dances at his own level. God however is the perfect leader. He created dancing in the first place! He knows all the dances, and all the steps in our lives. We can trust him on that alone.
And when we focus on becoming excellent followers of His lead, he will empower us to do things beyond our normal abilities and experiences. On the flip side, when we lead others, we can only teach what we have learned, for good or bad, we reproduce out of what we are. As we strive to become better followers – more in tune, and more like our heavenly leader Jesus, we will also become better equipped to lead others in their journeys.
As a wise mentor of mine once told me, when God gives you a vision – something bigger than you can accomplish on your own – eliminate the word “HOW” from your vocabulary.
How is this going to happen? How can I accomplish this?
The “How” questions tend to rely on my actions and my works to come up with a solution. God wants to be our solution. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the one who “sees the end from the beginning” (Revelations 22:13, Isaiah 46:10). When you let God lead and direct your vision, the end will always look different than how you thought it would look when you started. Stop trying to predict the final page of the story when you are only on chapter three!
So forget the “how” questions (for a while at least). Allow yourself to dream big. And follow God. Enjoy the state of grace that He has you in. This moment, this reality you are in, is preparing you – it is taking you step-by-step closer to the realization of your dreams. Remind yourself and say, "I can have confidence and TRUST that Jesus sees my end from the beginning, and reveals my path to me step by step. As I pursue my dreams, my goal is to keep pace with HIS timing, not MY timing. He is the perfect leader, and I can trust him with my life, my dreams, and my desires."
But as Scripture says:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9
Think about this. Wrap your minds around it….I am God, the only God you’ve had or ever will have – incomparable, irreplaceable – from the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, All along letting you in on what is going to happen, Assuring you “I’m in this for the long haul, I’ll do exactly what I set out to do.” Isaiah 46:8-10 (MSG)
Blessed be God, who has given peace to his people just as he said he’d do. Not one of all those good and wonderful words that he spoke has misfired. May God, our very own God, continue to be with us just as he was with our ancestors – may he never give up and walk out on us. May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors.
1 Kings 8:56-58 (MSG)