Grace dance

Last July, God brought to me another medley in His dance.

In Guatemala, I met someone from Pennsylvania.

That might sound kinda weird and, if so, it’s a good precedent for the Socially Awkward Couple.  If you have ever been worried that you were too unlikable and awkward and strange for anyone to like, worry no more.  I am evidence that you are not.  🙂

Somewhere underneath a waterfall, in a galaxy far far away . .

Ben and I actually first met in the Miami airport.  We were not friends and I did not want to get to know him.  He was cross-stitching, and that seemed very strange to me, and he was wearing all black, and that seemed probably stranger.

The first couple days of the trip went by like this: Any time Ben would sit by me, I would not want him to, but I didn’t say anything, because I have been raised polite.  I didn’t talk to him much . . but there were a couple things that caught my attention about the quality of his character.  Nonetheless, there was no way, no how this was happening.

–But I was intrigued.  Every day, on my way to breakfast, I passed him at the waterfall.  He had a look on his face I couldn’t read, and impossibly gorgeous eyes.  I knew he listened to music on his iPod and scribbled notes by the waterfall.  I took him for the poetic type.  That was nice and all, but I went on and had my breakfast.

One day, I couldn’t get into the computer room at our hotel.  There were only a couple computers, and they were all taken.  Ben volunteered to let me use his computer to email my mom.  There was something just the slightest bit interesting about him.  But I didn’t talk much, and he sure didn’t talk much :), and that was that.

The next day, after a visit with children we sponsored through Compassion International, we had the rest of the day at the hotel to lounge.  Swimming was the big event, but I didn’t have my swim suit.  My roommate was journaling, and so I decided to go around the hotel and take pictures.  I invited Ben along.

It seemed that whatever major we talked about on that walk, we did not agree on but were in flat-out opposition.  I saw this as going nowhere.  End of story.

The next day, one of the older men in our group came to talk to me about Ben . . had I given Ben a look?  I went out of my way to tell everyone who was listening that we were definitely not going to be a couple.  I was not interested; I was not open; and can we not talk about something else?

The rest of that day, I thought a little about it.  It became a bit less wild an idea.  That night, the last night of our trip, at the dinner table, I had two choices.  I knew my two choices mattered.  I could choose to sit in between two of my girl friends on the trip, and leave no room for Ben, or I could sit with an empty seat, and anyone could fill it.

I decided to sit with an empty seat, beside one of my good friends, and see what happened.  It surely wasn’t very likely he would sit right there.

But he did exactly that.

I was a bit flattered, but not serious.  This seemed very unlikely.  From what I knew about him then, I felt that other than the life-changing commonality of our faith in Jesus Christ, we had nothing or nearly nothing in common.  I didn’t even know his testimony at that time, but I imagined he was probably a believer to be going on a mission trip (although of course, I knew I’d have to get to know his heart better as he’d have to get to know mine).

We talked that night, and I don’t know about what, other than that South American sodas use real sugar.  At first, I mostly talked to my girl friend on the right side of me.  But as the night slipped away, I talked to Ben, too.  It was very loud in the restaurant, and not the kind of place to get to know someone.

Our group had a testimony time, and I got up and shared a little about myself and my experience with my child I’d gotten to visit.  I sat back down.  I could see from Ben’s suddenly alert posture, and his bulging eyes, that he was going to get up and say something too.  And I figured he was doing it pretty much in the same way a peacock flares its tail feathers for the peahen to see.

Sure enough, he did get up and share–even though from what little I knew about him, I knew he was going against his disposition to do such a thing.  I was impressed.  Later, during a ridiculous maraca dance, he got up after my Sandra Boynton ballerina dance and did his own dance–it reminded me of headbanging from the early 90’s.  I was even more impressed.

On the bus on the way back, we sat together.  We talked.  I started thinking maybe we did have a little in common.  He prayed for my motion sickness on the bus–not something just anybody would do.  And the thing was, he prayed quietly, and I wouldn’t have known what he was doing, but when he didn’t talk to me for a moment, I realized this was it.  He was amused and compassionate when a piece of debris hit the bus windshield and I screamed (and woke all the nappers on the bus up)–I have an embarrassing startle response.  I don’t even remember when, but sometime that night, he gave me his jacket.

I realized I had his jacket on when I went back to my hotel room.  I thought about returning it to him, but I still wasn’t sure.  Could this really be happening?  I decided to keep the jacket until morning.

In the morning, Ben was extremely tired after several nights of little to no sleep.  We had to wake up at 4:00 I think or 4:30 to make it to the plane on time.  He sat across from me in the lobby.  I gave him the snacks out of the provided packed lunch box that I didn’t want.  That was me starting to flirt.

I also tried to get him to buy me a hummingbird key chain at the airport, because I didn’t have the cash to buy it, but he didn’t pick up on the cues.  On the plane, we had separate seats.  I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  He was so tired I couldn’t pick up on any interest at all.

We stayed together through the passport line back to the U.S.  We ended up being the last two through the line, and everybody had left except two of the mission trip leaders.  We found out we were on separate airlines for our trips home, and I figured if we didn’t eat lunch together, we weren’t meant to be together.

We didn’t eat lunch together, but I didn’t feel the closure I’d hoped.

Over the next couple days, we texted a bit.  I called once.  Ben didn’t talk much on the phone.  I doubted he was very interested in me, or that we had enough in common to even remotely make this work.  But I still didn’t totally outrule it.

Was he serious?  Was I wasting my time?  I decided to give it to Ben straight and find out.  I texted him a clear message asking him his intentions.  He replied that he would pray, and it didn’t sound promising at all.  I don’t know why prayer didn’t sound promising, but I guess it seemed more like a phrase I’ll pray about it than a really I’ll pray about it.

After a night teaching a VBS-like program at my church, I found myself fairly upset.  I turned on the radio and listened to Addison Road Won’t Let Go on my way home.

That even when my heart breaks, everything’s shaken, I’m left alone in the rain, You won’t, You won’t, You won’t let me go!

–Addison Road, Won’t Let Go

I smiled and realized that whether Ben liked me or dumped me, God has never let me go and His love is totally sufficient for me, even if no boy on the planet ever winks an eye my way.

The next day I wasn’t so great, though.  I am a very fragile human being like any other, prone to relapse and self-pity, and I stayed in my pajamas and pouted.  I didn’t know why I felt so depressed, but I did.  It was as if I’d really wanted Ben to date me, when I hadn’t felt that way at all.  I didn’t get what was going on.  We had so little in common, anyway.

And yet when he texted me and asked if he could call, I felt myself slump into grief.  I almost knew he was going to say it wouldn’t work.  I didn’t want to hear his voice reject me.  I didn’t know why it mattered so much to me, but I just didn’t want to hear it.  I told him to just text me, that I didn’t feel up to talking and hearing bad news.

Through a tangle of texts, I started realizing he was not going to tell me he was ready to dump me.  He called me up and read to me a proposal to pursue me.  He had really prayed about it, and he had decided to go forward.

Well, I got up, traded my pajamas for real clothes even though it was already evening, and listened to Me Without You by Tobymac.  No, not me without Ben, but me without God.  

“I’d be packin’ my bags when I need to stay . . I’d be chasin’ every breeze that blows my way . . I’d be buildin’ my kingdom just to watch it fade away . . it’s true! . . that’s me without You.” 

–Tobymac, Me Without You

God really has changed my life from one of madly stuffing suitcases full of nothingness and running away from everything good, only to follow after every breeze of desire, stone by stone constructing a castle out of make-believe that couldn’t even stay upright in my own head.

Within a few days, I felt a need to start fasting and praying about Ben and I.  I wanted to seek God’s will in this.  What did He really want for us?  I fasted evenings–I didn’t know if Ben would join me, but when I told him I was going to, he did.

What I came away with was an overwhelming desire to pray for Ben’s life within God’s Kingdom and on God’s quests.  Whether or not Ben pursued me, whether or not we became a couple, the biggest blessing I could pray for his life was to experience God in a day-by-day, moment-by-moment way.  I got down on my knees and prayed for God’s Spirit to be poured out on Ben.  And I had a confidence that God would answer.

But I was sure surprised when He really did.

Whether or not Ben should continue to pursue me, whether we should be together or apart, whether I should ever hold him in my arms or not . . none of this is one bit as important as the gift of what God is doing in Ben’s life.  In all of my life, I have never seen such a miracle from God, except in how He has changed my own life.

As it turns out, God has gifted Ben and me with the dance of grace.

And we might even dance it together.

Our favorite “together song” is Lord of the Dance.  Ben is a Medieval knight born in the 20th century.  He introduced me to the song–he had it in his random list of songs in his car–and I loved it from the first time I heard it. 

“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said He.  “And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance with Me.”

–Sydney Carter, Lord of the Dance

God really is the Lord of the Dance.  He leads me in the dance of grace.  And He has maybe even given me a partner for the dance.  I feel unworthy to accept the invitation out on the floor.  And yet I find His grace so irresistible, His song so sweet, that I can scarcely help but to leap from the sidelines and join in.

Shout praises to the Lord!
    Praise God in his temple.
    Praise him in heaven,
    his mighty fortress.
 Praise our God!
    His deeds are wonderful,
    too marvelous to describe.

 Praise God with trumpets
    and all kinds of harps.
 Praise him with tambourines
    and dancing,
    with stringed instruments
    and woodwinds.
 Praise God with cymbals,
    with clashing cymbals.
 Let every living creature
praise the Lord.
    Shout praises to the Lord!

(Psalm 150, CEV)

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