[photo by az. from Flickr]
Last night, I went swing dancing.
And it was amazing.
I hadn’t gone ballroom dancing (of any kind) in a while. I used to do it a lot more. Ever since middle school, I’ve been a pretty good dancer (believe it or not). In high school for a summer, I was even part of a community dance troupe, so I’ve done most all of the throwing girls in the air over my shoulders, around my back, and catching them in mid-jump — you know, all that stuff. At one point I was picked out of my school choir as one of the few people that would do the “more advanced” swing dancing moves in front of the choir in a concert we gave. There I did all the pulling girls between the legs and wrapping them around the back and all that. In college, many Friday nights were spent at Dancespace, where we would get lessons in ballroom dancing and then dance the night away. It would usually be my group of a handful of us college kids and a bunch of senior citizens. It was awesome. Our particular crew usually consisted of me, several girls that were very inexperienced in dancing, and a few guys that were super shy and not very good who were talked into going against their wills.
This was a perfect storm for my arrogant and prideful heart. I started using this as a way to create a pedestal I could place myself upon and then receive the affirmation of one of my main idols–women. In that particular context, I could dance with girls and BS my way into looking like I not only knew what I was doing, but I was also far more of a man and leader than the other guys we went with. I was completely blind to this until one of my best friends (who is an amazing dancer) refused to dance with me on one of these evenings. Upon further interrogation, she told me: Paul, it’s just not fun dancing with you. You just seem like you want to show off! Dancing is such a prideful thing for you.
After that night, after being angry at her at first, I realized she was right. And so I stopped dancing. It wasn’t really on purpose. I just sort of quit accepting invitations to go. Since the Spring of 2007 I haven’t been ballroom dancing (except for a Contra dance last year, but that’s different). I haven’t gone because that feeling of arrogance in me has become such a hated thing for me. And I know when it’s coming. And I’ve just been scared of abusing anytime I went dancing. I didn’t know if I could trust myself.
But last night, as my two friends were talking me into going, I didn’t remember this little abstinence I have been conducting. I went ahead and went dancing and it wasn’t until about half-way through the night that I realized it. And something was different this time. I felt more free and joyful than I ever had dancing in the past. It was incredible. It was actually freeing to not have to pretend I was awesome at the dance. It was such a joy being humbled by girls I had never met trying to give me tips on dancing better. The whole night was just fun. I could actually get out there with pure motives not trying to impress anyone or allure anyone into my need for affirmation and security. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.
But not just because of the dancing. Going dancing last night was a spiritual experience for me. After walking my friends to their car, I walked back to mine by cutting through the campus of the University of Pennsylvania — one of the most gorgeous campuses in the country — and taking in the entire cool and misty night. And I worshipped. I prayed to God and knew He had been pleased to see His creation of the human form moving and joining with his creation of music. I felt that beauty had intermingled with Beauty that night, and through God’s growth and sanctification the past few years, I was actually able to partake in it — for the first time, perhaps. I was allowed to join with Beauty itself and feel the pleasure of a God who was dancing along with us, awash with the grace dripping from every note.
And the World to come was tasted. And it was good. Very, very good.