When I was about twelve, my friend had a birthday party in which one of the activities was a dance competition.
The instructions were simple: When “Dancing Queen” begins, boogie your best until the judge (birthday girl’s mom) taps your shoulder indicating that you are to exit the dance floor to watch and wait from the Loser’s Sofa.
I was not then, nor am I today, a good dancer. This wasn’t my competition to win, I was quite certain, so imagine my confusion and delight as one girl after another was deposed to the coach while I continued to dance on. Unbelievably, I was in the Top Five! I danced harder and faster – a whirling dervish of effort – as the judge criss-crossed the living room to tap three other shimmying shoulders, none of them mine.
I was a semi-finalist!
You guys. Never have I wanted to win a competition more in my life. I danced like never before (or again), and when the song ended it was my own sweaty shoulder that remained gloriously, victoriously, incredibly Untapped.
I’d won! I was the Dancing Queen!
Except even as I reveled in my triumph, I realized that everyone in the room, including me, knew that I wasn’t the best dancer at the party by any stretch. Several of my friends sitting on the sofa had real rhythm; real moves, and real dance talent. One of them deserved the crown I wore, despite their benevolent smiles and earnest congratulations. They were all being kind to me.
In a moment, my joy was gone. I knew that I hadn’t really won the competition. Rather, I was the recipient of a well-intentioned effort to encourage an awkward girl who couldn’t dance but had given it her all – body and soul. They were all being terribly kind. But I didn’t feel encouraged, I felt exposed.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
I’ve no idea why that memory came to mind every once in a while, except to remind me many years later that compassion decoupled from Truth never achieves its desired outcome. No mater how kind, or generous of spirit, or compassionate I hope to be, if Truth takes a seat on the couch, genuine joy is impossible for my neighbor.
My dance “win” was the result of much affection, but I wasn’t any better for the kindness in the end. I wasn’t encouraged. I felt lesser; smaller. Why? Because Truth must always hold hands with Love for there to be genuine joy and reward.
I’ve taken an eighteen-month Given Breath hiatus to consider many things. One of them being what it means to be a Christian – a person who holds hands with both Truth and Love – at the world’s party?
What does it look like to defy the temptation to extend God’s kindness, yet leave his truth waiting and watching on the couch?
What does it look like to offer the bread and wine of heaven – God’s wisdom poured out in his way – for the joy of our world?
Thanks to the many of you who’ve reached out and checked in. I am fine. All is well. More to come.
Shalom to you and yours, because Advent is near!
PS. I wan’t emotionally scarred by this event, much as it might seem to the contrary! I still will dance “with great exuberance” anytime I have a chance to embarrass my children in private or public.