“Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose,
cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.”
Understanding that there is a God who dances roots us in the reality that a relationship of love is at the center of the all things. Put more simply and eloquently, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Far from being merely an emotional response, love is a robust, powerful action in which we prefer others above ourselves. And, far from being a dry duty, love is the response of being fully loved. Again, put more simply and eloquently, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Thomas Merton describes the invitation to love, “Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.” Indeed, it is in letting go of our self-protective, self-focused strategies for living that we enjoy the dance of the Trinity. Learning to dance means that we engage in the movement required in each of the six movements we have examined. But, these movements don’t just happen. An intentionality is required from us. If we are not growing in the love of the Trinity, it is most likely not because of a lack of desire, but a lack of planning.
Over fifteen hundred years ago, Benedict of Nursia developed what is called a “rule of life” for monks living in a monastery. The idea was to provide structure that would both inform and form that way the monks related to God and each other. This rule is still being used all over the world today, even extending to people not living in monasteries. In our modern world, we frequently eschew the idea that rules can be helpful. We want to be free and spontaneous. Benedict addressed this notion, “The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love.”
If we desire to live in love and learn this dance, we need to devote ourselves to those movements and practices which help us move in rhythm with the Trinity. While the idea of structure and guidelines might seem to stifle the free expression of love, the opposite is true. There’s a statement among professional dancers that first one must learn the rules of dance and then you must forget the rules and dance from your heart.
Actually, it is not that the rules are forgotten but that the “rules” are now embedded in the heart. Once the rhythm and movements become a part of the heart through practice, the heart is free to love fully. In Psalm 119:32, a psalm that speaks of the glory of the law of God, we find an amazing verse that illustrates this reality:
“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”
As we structure our lives around Him and His commandments, the capacity of our heart grows! And, what are His commandments? Jesus made it clear that loving God and extending His love to others is the essence of all the commands of Scripture (Matthew 22:34-40). And, we love Him and others as we first receive His love.
And how do we structure our lives around these commandments? We run in the “way” of His commandments. The word “way” in Psalm 119:32 is a Hebrew word with the connotation of a road, a path, or a journey. It suggests movement and process. We journey into to His commands. The six movements lead us in the way of love, and as we live into them, we are able to hold more of His love and extend more love toward others.
In this final chapter, decide what spiritual practices and disciplines will be a part of shaping your life in order to dance with the Trinity. Give yourself an extended period of time to pray and reflect. What makes your heart come alive? What allows you to let go of the old and embrace the new? What seem to enlarge your heart? Then, develop a “rule” or structure for how you will run in the way of His commandments. Be bold. Give yourself permission to be loved. And, remember that it begins with thirst.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39)
Gordon Smith observed that “all spiritual formation is about stewarding our union with Christ.” How will you steward the mind blowing reality that you are one with the Trinity? This is your identity but will it be a lived identity? Work through the following elements to allow the Holy Spirit to nudge you into a way (or, rule) of life that will teach you to dance:
- Envision a life of dancing with the Trinity: what do you really want? What would it look like to respond to life with dependence rather than independence? What would it feel like to be so immersed in the love of God that you began to forget about self? What would it be like to respond with love rather than fear or anger? Let these questions and some of your own questions spur you to crafting a vision for your life with the Trinity.
- Evaluate what enlivens your heart: walk back through your experience of the various spiritual exercises and reflection questions. Listen and notice as you review. What brought you to a place of purity and wonder? What strips you down to a place of holy humility? What brings you joy? What helps you notice God’s work in your life? What assists you in living in the moment?
- Enact your heart’s desire: as you look back over your vision and those things which enliven your heart, make a specific plan for how you will live with God. Look at daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual practices in your life with Him. Be creative and devise a plan, with Him, for enjoying His love and loving Him and others in return.
Make sure that you consider the roles of letting go and simplicity in enacting your heart’s desire. We can easily come up with a list of things to do and simply trade one set of addictions for another. Antoine de Saint-Exupery made the brilliant observation that “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Spiritual Exercise & Reflection Questions
“Sin is a fundamental relationship— it is not wrong doing, but wrong being— it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith bases everything on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted in people was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the gospel that the message of the gospel has lost its sting and its explosive power.” Oswald Chambers
Prayerfully consider this idea of sin being independence …
Where does your independence show up?
What might it look like to be dependent in that area?
Envision: write a vision statement for your life with God … dancing with the Trinity. What do you really want? What would it feel like to be so immersed in the love of God that you began to forget about self? What would it be like to respond with love rather than fear or anger? Let these questions and some of your own questions spur you to crafting a vision for your life with the Trinity.
Evaluate: what brought you to a place of purity and wonder? What strips you down to a place of holy humility? What brings you joy? What helps you notice God’s work in your life? What assists you in living in the moment? What practices and regular spiritual exercises seem invited at this season in your dance? Look at the following six movements …
- From Boredom to INVITATION
- From Denial to INTROSPECTION
- From Numbness to INTENTION
- From Confusion to IDENTITY
- From Isolation to INTIMACY
- From Emptiness to IMITATION
Enact: what daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual practices will you plan for in your life with Him? Be creative and devise a plan, with Him, for enjoying His love and loving Him and others in return.
- How have your grown in your understanding of God during this study?
- How has your understanding of what it means to do life with God grown?
- What has surprised you or encouraged you? What has humbled you?
- Share about your vision for learning to dance with the Trinity.
- What are some of the elements of your plan?
- How can others pray for you?