My father is predictable.
Or, put another way, he has rhythm. Now that may not be the way my father would describe it, the man who I have seen dance one time, but it is accurate. For the duration of my childhood in his home, I saw his rhythm. He woke up early, often without the use of an alarm. Shortly after waking, he could be found at the head of the table with a bowl of cereal (almost always Wheaties), a slice of toast (with butter, peanut butter and honey), and a devotional. Even if it was only him at the table, he prayed before his breakfast and after. Doubtless he had learned such a rhythm from his father.
And then, for the years of working as a farmer and then electrician, he went off to work with his cooler full of sandwiches, milk, and kool-aid. His life has a rhythm.
I know his rhythm; I have watched it for years. In fact, I predicted his rhythm yesterday. He and my mother came to attend church with us, a solid 100 miles away. As I approached the church with my sons in the car, I asked Joshua, “Who will be at church first? Us, or grandma and grandpa?” Joshua, seeing that we would be at least 30 minutes early, declared that we would. I told him that I expected to arrive at the same time as my mom and dad. Then I broke it down this way, “Grandpa was up early and got ready. Then he waited for grandma to be ready. He left early because he doesn’t want to arrive right at the time church starts. There would be little traffic on the road this morning, and so he should be there about 9:30, which is when we will be there.” As I pulled into the parking lot, there was my father, walking away from his car.
How did I know that? How did I know the schedule of the man who never told me when he would leave nor promised when he would arrive? How did I know the arrival time of the man who was traveling 100 miles and has not worn a watch for as long as I can remember? Because my father has rhythm.
Unfortunately today, we focus more on the interruption than on the rhythm. Get a text? Well, stop what you’re doing and reply. Urgent email? Stop your conversation and excuse yourself so that you can reply. See something funny? Capture it and post it. (And by the way, on all three examples, I find myself guilty, guilty, guilty.) It is now commonplace, and accepted as polite to say, “Excuse me, I have to take this.”
Is there no value to rhythm anymore? And what does my father’s “routine” have to do with purity? Well, I’m glad that you asked. Imagine that you have a dance partner, and you are attempting to learn a new dance. Whether you normally lead while dancing or not, this is a dance where you don’t know the steps. So, if you want to learn this dance, you must follow your partner’s lead. You may think that I am referring to your love partner, and I am. But it may not be the love partner that you are picturing.
Your Father – your Heavenly Father – has a rhythm. He has a heartbeat. We speak and sing often of the heart of God. We have a heartbeat. You can feel it. But in order to live as you were designed, you need to find the place where your heartbeat beats as God’s heartbeat. We act like it should be the other way around. “God, why can’t you learn these steps? Why won’t you dance like I dance?” Because our Father has the lead.
During my trip to Honduras, one of the leaders shared with me one of her favorite quotes. Paraphrasing her words, I heard her say, “Everyone has a pull to the earth, but it might not be to the place where they are right now.” Those words framed my whole experience there. God’s heart beats throughout creation. In each place, that beat will have a unique sound. And there is a place where the rhythm of my heart beat matches exactly the beat of God’s heart. If you and I sing the same song, but with different notes, it is called harmony. If you and I sing the same song and the same notes, it is called unison. To dance with God, our rhythm must be in unison with his. When it is, we will know the dance. When we find the place where God’s beat is just like ours – because ours is just like his – dancing becomes easy. We will know the next step. We will know to go left, right, forward, or back. It is the rhythm that we have heard all of our lives.
But what do we do instead? We try to dance our dance. And, when a better-looking, or new, dance partner enters the floor, we say, “I’ll be right back. I have to try this.” And we lose our rhythm.
And if that is how we treat our Heavenly Father, the one who gave us a heartbeat, what does that say about how we will treat our helpmate? When you find a person that you love and want to serve, your only hope for staying in rhythm is if you have first learned to dance in unison with God. If God has not so captivated you that you will not leave his dance, your helpmate has no chance. Because when you engage someone in a dance, you are not leaving your dance with God. Your dance with God has added a new partner. Now the dance requires even more of your focus, more of your attention. When you avert your eyes, when you step away, when you turn to talk to another, your rhythm is gone.
And so is your purity.
You may think that Jesus is the classic counterpoint to this illustration – he responded to “interruptions” all the time. He did, but he never lost his rhythm.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49, emphasis added.
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6:39
When Jesus said, “I have to take this,” it was in reference to his dance with God. He never left the dance. He never found something more attractive nor more interesting than to dance with his father. There were no interruptions to the dance, but there were those who learned to dance along with him.
Brothers and sisters, we have to become better at our rhythm. We must learn to listen to the beat of the Father and therefore, learn the dance. And when you do that, you will learn how to dance with another – with God. In order to say “yes” to the dance, you will have to say “no” to many other things. But, if you do so, you will never lose your stride, never jilt your dance partner, and never stumble.
My father developed a rhythm. It is a rhythm that allows for interruptions much in the way that Jesus did. With a background in farming and electrical work, there were many requests by others for his time. My father did not have to leave his dance in order to respond, because that was part of his dance. His heartbeat, in line with his Father’s, was to serve and to help. In other words, my father dances to a live jazz performance, though he may not ever say it exactly that way.
Finding your rhythm is not the same as knowing the next note. It’s not the same as knowing how the song will go. It is knowing where the leader of the dance wants you to go. That is how you dance.
Everything that can is stated here about learning the dance of your Heavenly Father can and should be applied to the one he gives you to love. Read it back through if you would like, and evaluate how you are doing at learning the dance of your partner. When God includes a dance partner in your life, it is not for you to teach them how to dance. You are still following God’s lead. But now you must submit your steps to their rhythm as well. In order to learn how God wants the dance to be, you must learn the steps of your new partner. Learn their rhythm, not the other way around.
It’s a lot like jazz. The notes are unscripted, but there is an underlying rhythm. It’s a dance that can include a new partner, but only after you have learned how to follow.
It’s a dance my father knows well.
It’s a dance with your Father.
It’s a dance you just have to take.