I came home from swing dancing fairly late tonight, but the night was irresistible–the first reasonably warm one this year, with a sky full of stars–so I grabbed a blanket and sat on the porch for a while enjoying the view. Our place is off the beaten path, so the stars are clear and bright, the silence is profound, and everything smells deliciously piney. It was perfectly peaceful. Silence so deep that I didn’t want to disturb it by the sound of my breath, interrupted now and again by a sweet note or little melody from our wind chimes. The scent of nature in my nose and the canopy of stars spread out above; I even saw a couple of shooting stars. Isaiah 26: 3 ran through my head.
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
As I meditated on that scripture a little bit, I realized that the scene before me was a beautiful example of what it looks like to live that verse. Because in reality, the little tableau I was part of was anything but peaceful. The surface of the Earth is moving roughly 1000 miles per hour (460 meters per second for those out there who prefer metric) as it rotates, and the Earth itself is hurtling around the Sun at about 67,000 miles per hour (107,000 kilometers per hour). And the space we’re hurtling through is vast and peppered liberally with potential danger. Those beautiful little shooting stars I saw were actually space rocks being vaporized by our atmosphere. By all rights, we should all be terrified all the time because there are so many variables, so many fast and furious events happening all the time that the odds of something going catastrophically wrong at any moment seem like they should be astronomically high. Yet, instead, we find perfect peace right in the heart of all the crazy.
As I said, I had come from swing dancing, another activity where peace can be found in the crazy. (Best. Post. Ever. I get to talk about science and dance all in one!!!!) I remember first learning to swing dance and watching some of the veteran dancers. It seemed impossible to me that they could be so in tune with each other, that they could perform such intricate and elaborate moves without anything being choreographed. Looking at a full dance floor, it was absolute chaos. Hundreds of couples sometimes, all within inches of each other, none of them knowing exactly what was coming next. But rarely were there any collisions, and somehow everyone managed to magically know what to do next when the time came. I’ve been dancing for about 11 years now, so I’ve come to understand the magic of leading and following. It’s a lot like living on this crazy planet; there’s a lot going on. Especially if it’s a fast-tempo song, a million things are happening at the same time. Your feet have to stay under you, but also track with your partner, and also not step on anyone. You’re receiving a thousand subtle cues from the lead, telling you to turn or not turn, to move toward him or away from him or with him, to kick or rock step or triple step or jump or be still for a moment, to gather your weight on this foot or that foot or both, to lean back to counterbalance him or lean into him, to avoid that other couple that’s coming out of nowhere. It’s nuts. There’s so much coming at you and so much going on around you, yet in the middle of all that muddle, there can be peace and SO. MUCH. FUN. As long as you trust your lead.
That’s really the key, isn’t it? We have to trust our lead. In dancing, it usually takes a couple of dances to get used to following a new lead. But with time, you learn his cues and how to respond to them. You learn some of his preferences, the way he moves and the way he expects you to move in response. You pick up on his style, and can mold your own to complement it. You come to learn what to expect–how he’ll react to accents in the music, the way he likes to string certain moves together. Of course, you can’t get too complacent. He could always change things up and surprise you, so you have to continue to follow, rely on his cues and not try to anticipate them. Ahhh this is one of the reasons I love dancing so much, it’s such a perfect metaphor for our relationship with God. He’s our lead, it’s simply our job to keep in tune with Him, trust Him, be be waiting for His cues, and follow them promptly when we recognize them. When we get it right, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, and it’s FUN. If we try to hijack the lead, things go downhill fast.
There’s a lot of crazy out there. Heck, you don’t even have to leave the house if you’re anything like me. I’ve got plenty of crazy going on in my own head. This “perfect peace” verse in Isaiah, I guess I always pictured it as kind of one of those scenes in a movie where boy meets girl: eyes lock across the room and everything else just kind of blurs out as they walk serenely toward each other. But as I contemplated tonight, I considered for the first time that maybe that’s not really it. Maybe it’s not about us walking sedately through the chaos, but maybe it’s about strapping ourselves in to ride a giant rock hurtling through space, about being caught up in the midst of a sea of moving parts, but thoroughly enjoying the ride. About looking up at the vastness of space with wonder instead of fear, even knowing full well all that’s going on. About entering the fray to dance your heart out even though there’s barely enough room on the dance floor and you don’t know what’s coming next. I’m not saying that if your life isn’t crazy you’re doing it wrong. I’m just suggesting that maybe we don’t necessarily need a perfectly scheduled day or an event planned to the last detail to have peace. That maybe that interruption is part of the dance. That all the ridiculous people that whirl through our lives don’t have to be inconvenient or intimidating, but can be part of the enjoyment. That the crumbling of all our best laid plans may just be an unexpected move we’re not sure how to follow yet. As we keep our minds, hearts, and eyes stayed on our Lord, and keep trusting Him to lead, we can have that perfect, confident peace even as the world swirls around us and we barely even know what’s going on with our own feet.