In my teens I lost the freedom to dance. I became too self-conscience. It wasn’t cool. Kids would laugh at me. I became imprisoned by my own thoughts and lost something that used to bring me great joy.
Later in life I did the same thing with God. I became imprisoned by thoughts of doubt. I became self-conscience. It wasn’t cool. I turned away. I lost the greatest joy. I didn’t even partially understand what I had lost until much later in life.
I think lots of us feel this way with God – we miss the greatest joy – we miss having the fun and total freedom of dancing without care. We miss what Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis referred to as the Dance – the dance of the triune God. We miss our true purpose. I’ll lean on Tim Keller for the rest of this, but I hope to capture the beauty of God’s purpose for us through the metaphor of dance.
Let’s step back in time a bit…
We’re told in the Bible that God created the world. But notice the three components to the creation:
- In the beginning God created…
- The Spirit of God hovered over the waters…
- The Word of God – and God said…
So we have God, God’s Spirit, and God’s Word. Flash forward to the baptism of Jesus and you have the same three components present – the Trinity.
- God (the Father is speaking words of love and praise versus creating)
- God’s Spirit (descending like a dove on Jesus)
- God’s Word (Jesus)
This is no accident. Mark is linking these two stories. He’s showing us the history of the world in a few sentences. But what is this world? And what does it have to do with dancing?
We know from the Bible that the Trinity is relational. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit serve, glorify, center on, and celebrate one another. It’s not a top down hierarchy of might is right. It’s a dance. It’s a dance of love that’s been going on eternally. We all know the expression “God is love.” The Dance of the Trinity is the expressing of this expression.
We can’t love outside of relationships. Keller notes that if God is just one person (a unipersonal God) then his first priority cannot be love. It would have to be power or greatness because at the beginning of creation he would have been alone – no one to love. In this case, he would need to create us. But wouldn’t that be a tad selfish? Think about it. That would mean God created us for a means to an end (so he could have someone to love). Fortunately that’s not what we’re told. Instead we see this incredibly unique Trinity – this dance. There is nothing else like it.
In Christian circles, we’re taught to praise and Glorify God. This is very true, but the motives are rarely elaborated on. You see, God does not need us to glorify him. He already has that, and far better than we could do, in the Trinity. God created us not to get something from us, but to give something to us. That something is Joy – and it’s found in the eternal joy of the triune God. Put another way, praising and glorifying God is how we dance. It’s how we learn the steps.
How do we get into this dance? The short answer is to have faith in Jesus Christ, but, quite frankly, saying it so flatly can come off as cold and rigid as many of the religious themselves.
Notice in the Trinity there is no selfishness. There’s no one saying I’m the best, I’m the leader – put all the focus on me. It’s not a diagram with God at the top and Jesus and the Holy Spirit on the next rung down. It’s a circle of love. They continually serve one another.
Remember in the garden of Eden, God told Adam not to eat the fruit from a certain tree. Keller puts God’s direction this way: Obey me about the tree and live. Adam didn’t. In other words, Adam, with a push from the devil, stepped outside the Trinity. Instead of loving, serving, glorifying, and obeying inside the circle of love, he went off on his own. He didn’t realize what he’d lost.
God said the same thing to Jesus. Obey me about the tree (the Cross), and I will crush you. Jesus did. Jesus went into the ultimate wilderness for us. In doing so, Jesus glorified us. He surrounded us with love unconditionally. He took us as his own. He welcomed us back into the dance.
It’s faith in this Jesus and Gospel fellowship that allows us to dance with joy. It’s our union, our marriage to Jesus, that allows us to experience the dance in all it’s fullness. A friend put it this way – Through our union with Christ we have the same access to the Father as Jesus does. Through our union with Christ we have the same access to the Spirit as Jesus does. We get it all – sanctification, justification, confirmation, transformation, salvation – it’s the whole package. But we have to be plugged in to Jesus. We have to be in the dance.
The dance is not a selfish grab for life or happiness or to find one’s purpose. It’s the recognition of, and participation in, the source of life.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson