One Sunday when I was home from college, my church sang the hymn “He Leadeth Me.” I’ve sung that hymn since I was a little kid, but that morning, the refrain stuck out in an unusual way:
“He leadeth me, he leadeth me. By his own hand he leadeth me. His faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me.”
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “That sounds an awful lot like a dance.”
In some Reformed circles, that idea could come as a shock. It used to be that dancing was greatly frowned upon, along with playing cards and watching movies. Yet here I am in 2019 doing swing dance, one of the most flamboyant forms of ballroom dance I know of.
Swing dance has its origins in the American jazz era, although the group I’m a part of does more pop music than jazz. One of my favorite swing dance moves is the cross-hip dip, where the leader tips his partner over one knee and holds her almost upside-down inches above the floor. As dangerous as it may sound, the dip is secure enough that both partners can let go of each other without the chance of someone falling. A friend I often danced with trusted me enough that I could perform the dip and hold her with just my elbows.
This move was in the back of my mind that Sunday morning we sang “He Leadeth Me.” And the thought of a God who could, in a sense, flip his children upside down and hold them with his elbows was a terrifying thought. What if, in the dance that is our life, he performs an aerial? In that moment, all we have is his hands holding us up while we go flying and the room spins around us. Do we trust him enough?
I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell which human partners trust me enough. They’ll lean into a dip, eyes closed and a hint of a smile on their faces. Some of them almost dip themselves before I’m ready. At the end of one song, one friend wanted to do a dip, but I was not in a position that lead into one easily. As the last notes of the song played, she threw herself backward, yelling “Dip!” as she went. I caught her neatly and ended the song with her balanced on my right knee.
“You trust me way too much,” I told her afterward. “Thankfully, I don’t drop people.”
Then there are the ones who are not as comfortable. If I try to dip them and they’re wearing rings, I find out quickly since they usually end up digging into my shoulders. To them, I say the same words I told my friend when she dipped herself:
“Trust me. I don’t drop people.”
Perhaps God says something like that when we don’t trust him enough. When it seems like the world is upside down and his hands aren’t holding us up, it’s easy to feel like we might tumble out of his grasp. We try to cling to him as hard as we can, but the sense of falling doesn’t go away. It’s when he finally pulls us upright that we realize we’ve just been dipped. We were balanced on his knee, and he was still holding us. There was no chance of us falling.
His reputation proves it. He led his people through the sea and through the desert. He stayed faithful, even when they turned away to the gods of their neighbors. He brought them back from exile. He sent his son, Jesus, to take the punishment for our sins. As Joshua said in his parting address to the Israelites, “Not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled” (Joshua 23:14).
Do we trust him enough to be his faithful followers and to let him lead? He’s proven it: he doesn’t drop people.