Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Spiritual Dance

Mother’s Day is usually not a significant holiday in my household.  This Mother’s Day, however, was sweeter than usual.  It was Mother’s Day, 2011, that my family granted my wish and spent the afternoon helping me to begin a gigantic furniture refinishing project: a large, ornate dining room set with eight (!) chairs purchased on e-Bay.

Thus began an adventure that had my husband and daughter making wagers about how long it would be before our cars could go back in the garage.  Little did I anticipate the gallons of stripper, piles of steel wool, and cartons of ice cream that would be required to complete the job.  And since I am an amateur refinisher, there was as much to learn as there was to do.

As the days turned into weeks and then into months, I began to appreciate that there were spiritual lessons to be learned as well.  The Bible talks a good bit about the need for perseverance through trials and struggles.  Although there is no eternal value in our dining room set, there is eternal value in the lessons that God had for me in the 110º  heat in our garage.  As I faced periodic mistakes and unexpected challenges—steps backward—I realized that it was a dance: some steps forward, some steps back.  Although the steps forward were more satisfying, the steps backward were also part of the dance and valuable in their own right. 

Since refinishing furniture gives one a great deal of time to think, I had the opportunity to see how the “refinishing dance” applied to my spiritual life.  It is wonderful to experience spiritual success: to overcome temptation and sin, to develop a more Christ-like character, to become a more loving, devoted bond-servant of Christ.  My spiritual struggles, though, are also valuable: they send me running back to my Lord, to remember that my righteousness comes not by works or Christian performance but by faith in Jesus. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observes that our failures in pursuing the Christian walk are essential for the development of our faith:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good....  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is....  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later....  The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues is that we fail.  If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam, and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out....  Then comes another discovery.  Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like.  It is like a small child going to its father and saying, "Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present."  Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child's present.  It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction.  When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work.  It is after this that real life begins.  The man is awake now.  We can now go on to talk of Faith....

Jesus Christ, our bridegroom, wants to dance with us, to celebrate His work in us as we rejoice in spiritual growth and persevere through failure, trials, and struggles.  We need not fear failure nor hide in embarrassment when we fall short of God's best for us.  Learning to dance is an awkward process, but it can bring great joy as we encourage one another and depend on our Lord to lead.