by Dr. Linda Hartley, Assoc. Minister (Designated Term)          –          May 13, 2020

Well, we’ve certainly been dealing with a lot of new things lately. Many of us are getting more accustomed to virtual meetings on Zoom than we would probably like. I found myself laughing out loud the other day at a friend’s post on Facebook of a clip from an old Laurel and Hardy film – some of you may have seen this too. Laurel and Hardy are leaving a friend’s house and they and everyone in the car, everyone on the front porch, everyone on the block is waving and waving, and waving goodbye. The caption read something like, “the end of every Zoom meeting.” It’s so true. And it got me thinking of how we are trying to normalize even the most un-normal of circumstances. Waving “bye-bye” may be one of the earliest things we teach children. It’s so embedded in us as human beings as part of how we connect with each other. It’s sweet and funny and utterly wonderful that we have just naturally added this very human element to a medium that may feel unnatural to us.

And now, just as we have started learning and adjusting to these new ways of being together, things are starting to change once again. As I write this, the Governor has lifted the “stay-at-home” order and non-essential businesses are being encouraged to “open” once again. Those of us who are not at high risk are now encouraged to go out, albeit cautiously and with great care. And while we may have been longing for this day, this can also feel more than a little awkward, even concerning.

I decided to venture out over the weekend to a small, local business to support their first steps into this new reality. Armed with my cloth face mask and a desire to feel somewhat “normal” again, I walked into the shop rather tentatively. The two young people working there that day were very nice and welcoming, but I also got a sense that they too felt tentative about this new normal. I found myself saying to one of them, “I guess we’re going to try this out and see how it goes, aren’t we?” They looked relieved that I had named it, and we shared a smile.

In one of her press conferences, Governor Raimondo referred to our efforts to deal with the Coronavirus as a dance – one that will require us to figure out how the virus is behaving and be flexible enough to make adjustments based on that. I understand what she was trying to convey with that metaphor. But, I would prefer to think of us as dancing with God.

Of course, dancing doesn’t always require a partner. My mom used to say that the way we danced in the 60s, she couldn’t figure out who was dancing with whom. And we certainly can dance all by ourselves in the privacy of our living rooms when we’re so moved. But, when we do dance in close proximity with another person, dancing becomes a constant adjustment between the partners. The simple box step requires one person to follow the lead of the other. Some have joked that Ginger Rogers was a better dancer than her partner, Fred Astaire, because she had to do everything he did, only backwards!

If you’ve ever taken dance lessons, or just tried to dance at a wedding or a special event, you probably know that you can get tripped up if you keep looking down at your own feet. Instructors are always reminding students to keep their chin up – look up, not down. Of course, it’s so natural to want to see what we’re doing, to see where we are. But it doesn’t help because just when we see where we are, we’re actually supposed to have our feet into the next step. And especially when we’re the one following, dancing requires trust in our partner to lead us into that next step.

So here’s where my analogy of “dancing with God” comes in. My faith assures me that God is always with us, guiding us on this journey of life. A God who loves us so much can do nothing less than guide us in the ways that are best for us, the ways that will lead us to become more of who God knows us to be. A God who loves us so much can do nothing less than show us how we can help others that they too can be who God knows them to be. And one way of looking at this is the analogy of dancing. In our dancing with God, God is in the lead. At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s like an old bumper sticker used to say, “If Jesus is your co-pilot, you’re in the wrong seat.”

Just like dancing with our human partner, if we are constantly looking down at our own feet, we only see where we’ve been – where we’re now situated. We can’t see the next step. We won’t have the flexibility to move into that next step. We may even find ourselves tripping over our own feet. But if we will look up, beyond our own feet and where we’ve been standing, we can find ourselves moving fluidly in rhythm with our partner, in rhythm with God. And we can trust that the next step we are being led to take is the right one for us because God only leads us in the ways that are right for us.

This is so important these days because what is right for someone else may not be what is right for you. We all need to listen for the next right step for us. For some of us, that may mean venturing a little more into the world beyond our homes. For some of us, that may mean waiting a little longer to do so. For all of us, this means continuing to look for the ways we can stay connected to each other, the ways we can be a part of our community. When you are making these decisions do remember to “look up” at the ways God is leading you, trusting that when you do so, you will find that next right step. May all of your box steps and foxtrots be smooth.