One of my favorite parts of ballet is Pas de Deux, or dancing with a partner. The intricacy of weight transfer and coordination between the two dancers brings joy to my analytic side, the thrill of being thrown in the air or turned seven times is what every little girl dreams of, and the rich artistry and storytelling intrinsic to performed pas are the experiences I come back to every time the road is long and hard. An interesting difference between partnering in classical ballet and other forms of partnered dance, like swing or ballroom, is that the female dancer is the one calling the majority of the shots. The man is responsible for those extra turns or for getting the girl up in the air, but when it comes to timing and execution of steps, the man is mostly at the mercy of the woman – this becomes abundantly clear if you’ve forgotten the combination while doing it.
It’s a comforting thing to be in control. As long as you have an experienced partner to support you, there’s there’s the knowledge that you’re responsible for what your legs are doing, and therefore the timing and outcome of your arabesque, turn, and even lift, are mostly up to you. Enough drive of the supporting leg will ensure a stable developpe. The amount of pressure in the hand will dictate the success of your pirouette after a promenade.
But some things aren’t as certain. There was a recurring lift in a recent performance which involved jumping forward and trusting that my partner would be there to lift me onto his shoulder and keep me up there. There was a turn in The Nutcracker which required only slight movement after reaching out as far as possible on pointe.* And in those moments, you can think of all the right things and make sure you’re doing your part. But there’s also that split second when you can’t know the outcome. Whether you’re in the air or doing a chasse penche, there’s the possibility that your next location will be the ground or ice bucket. But you trust your training. You trust your partner. And so you leap, or step out, or flip upside down. And the result? Well, it’s pretty fun.
A few months ago, my heart was aching in Adoration as I wrestled with some of my deepest desires. I began to go down the rabbit hole of playing out all possible scenarios, some positive, some negative, as my mind raced for solutions to my problems and as I tried to see the potential future. Jesus was so patient in the monstrance, watching me try to sort it all out, completely forgetting about His Presence as I tried to take on the role of Divine Author. But finally, He broke in, whispering the simplest words to my weary soul: “Let me lead.”
“Let me lead.”
I would love to know my story like I know my favorite book – the pages well-read, the good parts dog-eared, key phrases highlighted. Or I’d like to know the Lord’s plan like I know my First Arabesque line and supporting leg. But that is not what I am invited to. I am invited to that hovering between the ground and my partner’s shoulder, to that impetus before a grande saut de chat where you’re not allowed to carry yourself forward, no matter how much you love to travel by yourself. I am invited to that tender moment after the pas when you are walked forward to the audience by your partner. I am invited to let Him lead.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew, a tax collector and traitor whose life was changed by a single glance and the invitation, “Follow me.” I’m struck by the mere two words that brought Matthew to Christ that day. Jesus did not say, “Follow me to the local Starbucks for a brief Onboarding Apostle orientation. Follow me and I’ll inspire you to write one of the Gospels. Follow me and be one of my first Bishops. Follow me and, yes, things will be hard, but good will come out of your suffering in this exact way.” No, Jesus does not offer explanation. He does not make promises. The only promise He makes is the gift of His friendship, the gift of Himself. And that is enough for Matthew.
Today, the same hand that points to Matthew points to me. The same eyes beckon. The same voice calls, “Follow me.” He does not promise healing in the exact way I desire. He does not guarantee that my yearnings will be satisfied in the way that I long for – He is too good of a Father to give me mudcakes when the sea is at hand.** But He offers Himself, His skilled hand that has danced in rapture over Creation since the beginning of time. He offers to lead. And there can be no better partner.
So today I will leap even when I cannot see. I will follow Jesus to whatever end. I’ll let Him lead.
*- Ok, so ballet is much prettier to watch than it is to read
**- Your C.S. Lewis allusion for the day