Several times over this weekend, whether it be over Pandora internet radio or music played in a restaurant or grocery store, Lee Ann Womack’s hit “I Hope You Dance” has provided the soundtrack to our lives and family activities. Any time I hear it my mind flashes back to the first time the song was mentioned to me after its release. There was a man in my life I was working for at the time that played a monumental part in shaping my daily life, especially my work ethic. One of the statements he made to me and other coworkers quite often is “We spend more time with our coworkers in the course of a week than our family that we love so much. We have to make work a good place to be.” I chuckle every time I remember him looking at me and saying, “Rock, the day we stop laughing here is the day I quit!” Keep in mind, this was one the owner of the company!! I was nineteen when I began working for Tom and I worked for him for 10 years until he passed away in December of 2005. The greatest motto he lived his life by was, “Life is a journey, not a contest.” Tom’s company to him was so much more than just a business and a livelihood. It was a way to give back. I was not the only young person that worked for Tom. There were several of us who passed through and I saw many come and go during my tenure with the company. His business was structured that we would work for him two to three years while in trade school and then move on upon graduation, but as the company grew several of us stayed around. He never referred to us as employees, but as coworkers. The mission of his company was to not only provide a way for us to pay our bills, but he wanted to be sure he had a chance to help shape the character of each and every young man or woman while they were with him. Tom truly wanted to teach us to make sure in life we would always take time to dance.
What is dancing? According to Webster, dancing is defined as moving your body in a way that goes with the rhythm and style of music that is being played. Google says to dance means to move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps. Combining both of these definitions, I believe we must view life and the events to happen us as the music. If life is the music, then our hearts and our minds must be considered the body that is dancing and we must allow them to move along with the ups and downs we face. Sometimes, quick and lively in free-flowing motion and celebration. Other times, we must follow the sequence of steps that we know to be true in both our heart and mind despite what our emotions and circumstances are telling us. For those of us privileged to work with and for Tom, by telling us, “Life is a journey,” he wanted to remind us to enjoy the process. When he’d say “it’s not a contest,” he was saying don’t get so caught up in your destination that you lose yourself.
I believe this is what Christ was truly saying in when he said in John 10:10 that he came that we may have life more abundantly. His purpose in coming and His love for us is not exclusively about providing us a ticket to heaven. He wants us to enjoy this life that he has given us and to enjoy it right now and on a daily basis. In Matthew 11:28, He told all those who would listen to “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The abundant life Jesus came to bring was a life of rest, not a life of drudgery, fear, and rule-keeping. Jesus wants us to dance. Jesus wants us to enjoy the journey. After all, our destination is already secure and we did not have to do anything to secure it, other than simply believe Him.
Let’s look at Matthew 11:28 – 30 from The Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Are you tired? YES Burned out on religion? YES (note blog title!) Jesus says come to him and you’ll recover your life and have real rest.
One aspect of dancing I did not mention previously is that of dancing with a partner. When a couple dances, there is always a leader and a follower. Notice the words of Jesus above, “Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it.” The greatest thing of dancing with Jesus is He leads!! That is an awesome relief for this awkward, chubby guy who has always shied away from dancing with the statement, “God made me to make music, not move to it!” I don’t have to know the steps to this dance of life, I just have to follow Him.
My boss, friend, and former father figure, Tom, is the one who first mentioned Lee Ann Womack’s song to me. “Rock, you’ve got to hear this song. It’s what life’s all about.” However, when he told me about it, he didn’t find a recording and give it me. He didn’t make me sit down and listen to it on the spot. He didn’t even insist I be with him when I heard it. He simply said, “Listen to it.” I could’ve chosen to never hear the song and ignore him. I could’ve said in my mind at that young age, “I’m tired of you telling me what to do.” But there was something about the look in his eyes as he shared the song. There was something about the smile on his face as he said, “That’s it.” When I finally heard it, it echoed Tom’s heart. Tom never, at least in my presence, publicly claimed Christianity, but in numerous interactions over the decade I spent with him, he displayed to me what love is. As I reflect on this song and this memory, I realize he did it once more. Look back at the The Message reading above. Christ told us to learn the unforced rhythms of grace. That’s what it’s all about . . . the unforced rhythms of grace. Have you ever seen someone who is forced to dance? You might as well put cement in their shoes, because they aren’t moving! That’s what the rules and traditions of religion will do to you and this recovering churchboy has had enough of being forced to do what man teaches but God’s word never taught. Jesus is not going to force anything upon us. He told us he would never lay anything heavy or ill-fitting upon us and if we kept company with him we would learn to live freely and lightly. And that’s a dance that even this non-dancing, awkward chubby guy can groove to.
Just as Tom invested in my life and the lives of all he worked with, I pray today that you will not only take time to dance and learn the unforced rhythms of grace as Christ has invited, but as you dance you will invite others into the unforced rhythms with you.