Stan and I have been taking dance lessons for the past three years. It started as a “pipe dream” of mine. I loved watching “Dancing with the Stars” and had been to many swing dancing clubs during college – truly one of my favorite memories from my years at UNC. Flowing across the swing dance floors, I felt as though I was walking on air, light and free, all fears and worries stripped away by song and accompanying musical feet.
Many years had passed since I had graced a ballroom dance floor when Stan and I attended a Dynamic Marriage Class at our church. It was an 8 week session focused on building a stronger marriage. With a 4 and 2-year-old and one on the way (any day of that class), we took the plunge and committed.
In that class we talked about a lot of things. We were real. We were vulnerable – in front of other people. We laughed, we cried, we agreed…and even disagreed. We prayed. One thing we talked about was the importance of recreational activities as a couple. We both had things we liked to do, separate from one another, but we really didn’t have an outlet to do together. And…let’s be honest…when did we have time? Almost three kids, 2 jobs and just life kept us spinning, passing like ships in the night. And when we did spend time together, it was usually on the couch in front of the television.
As a part of an assignment for the class, we had to fill out a questionnaire about which specific activities we enjoyed. Very much to my surprise, dancing was on both of our top five. Even more a surprise, Stan purchased a gift certificate to Fred Astaire Dance Studio for three dance lessons for my birthday that very year.
Having just had a baby, I didn’t really want to show off my postpartum figure on the dance floor. We waited about 9 months and took another plunge – this time onto the dance floor. Three introductory classes was all it took. We were hooked. We decided to make a commitment at that point to our marriage and to make this recreational activity a priority. We scheduled dance lessons from 8:45-9:30, after our babies were tucked into bed with sugar plums gracing their dreams. This would otherwise be the time for television and zoning out. Instead, we made one of the best decisions of our marriage… and here we are…three years later and still dancing.
It is interesting over the years, how very much I have reflected on the things dancing can teach you about marriage. Dancing requires a leader and a follower. There are reasons for both roles, that must be carried out successfully in order for the dance to work as intended. The leader must be strong and he must communicate intentionally and clearly. He must look out over the dance floor, assessing his position in comparison to all other couples on the floor. His partner’s back is to the other dancers. She cannot see behind her. Her every step backwards is a step towards faith and trust in his competence in protecting her. The follower must be willing to submit, to give up control and allow her partner to call the shots. Because she feels secure in his frame, she lets go of fear and lets him lead her.
There are times when his frame is wobbly or weak and she senses his need for help. She gently pulls his hands in the direction she knows is right and he has to choose in that split second whether he will let her help him or shake his head in frustration at her assumed “need for control”. There are other times when she anticipates which move he will make and she steps ahead of him, in the opposite direction. He might stumble, she might fall. They must reset the ready position, recount and begin anew.
There have been many Tuesday nights, from 8:45-9:30 pm, where I have been just dog tired. I have not wanted to get out on that dance floor. I might not have spoken to Stan the entire day, maybe even since a disagreement the night before. And then…I am forced to be held in his arms – because that is the only way you can dance. And…our instructor is watching.
We look at each other, we mirror each other’s steps and hops and complete a turn, sachay and corte. Our eyes meet. We smirk, we grin, we smile. We exhale. We laugh. We connect again.
Our instructor, invites us on this journey across the dance floor, where all time stands still and we focus on each other. We learn how to lead and how to follow. We learn how to work together, how to keep the beat, stay in time, maneuver through other dancing pairs. We learn far more about marriage than originally intended in this recreational activity.
I am reminded of Ephesians 5:22-28. The Message version says this:
“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.”
I love the Message version of these verses. I cannot think of a better picture of mutual submission in our marriage, than when we dance. I feel cherished by Stan, as he guides me across the dance floor, watching me, even admiring me. I feel as though he is proud that I am his wife. Feeling cherished makes me want to submit to his leadership on the dance floor…and in our home. The love displayed on the dance floor is marked by giving…giving time, giving space, giving grace. On the dance floor, I am the one on display – “dressed in dazzling white silk” or a beautiful evening gown and radiant as his gentle care for me and love displayed evoke beauty.
Submission in the bible as related to marriage is often misunderstood, viewing it as old-fashioned and potentially harmful. The first thing that must occur is a mutual submission to Christ and subsequent intimate relationship with Him. This allows for both the husband and wife to understand submission in a Christ centered way. Submission in marriage is mutual. There are roles for each partner, much like there are on the ballroom dance floor. In order for the art of dancing, and dare I say…marriage, to work, each party must submit to the other in trust, faith and love. As the husband cherishes and protects his wife, she follows his lead and the result – in broad and sweeping strokes painted across the dance floor, an incredible masterpiece unfolds.