By Mara Hodler
How about those moments when life is moving along smoothly, it looks like you have a good view of where things are headed, you’re making progress … and then all of a sudden, surprise! A total about-face happens. Something that forces you to change and pushes you in a different direction. A complete game changer.
I find those “surprise” moments kind of scary. Having no control over a situation feels like a free fall. Not my thing! It’s at those times when my best-laid plans are strewn around me like worthless debris that I hear in my head the words, “Man proposes, but God disposes.”
I have the choice to just “go with it” or try to force and steer things back to my cherished plans. Really, it’s not so much of a choice as it is a mental attitude. Half the time, the outcome is obvious, and holding on to my plans is clearly only going to prolong the inevitable. Still, it’s hard to let go.
It’s like a good salsa dance. When two people have danced together for a long time, they learn to “read” each other and can ad-lib a dance perfectly and in perfect synchronization. In traditional salsa, the man is the leader, and the woman is attuned to his slightest pulls and guides, moving her body to follow his lead. When the couple is in sync, their movements become an extension of each other, and it’s amazing! A couple that is out of sync is pretty sad to watch. They step on each other’s toes, sometimes even fall, and at best, lack the gracefulness that the dance is supposed to convey.
I sometimes picture my life as a dance. When those “surprises” come into play, I can almost hear Jesus saying, Come on. We’ve been dancing together for so long, you know how to follow. Just let Me lead and I will make this dance spectacular.
I know in my heart that if I let Him take control, I won’t trip and fall. But it can be hard to surrender to His lead. Usually the reason is that I feel I’ve worked hard on practicing the previous routine and learning every step, and I don’t want to change. Sometimes I try to lead. And the results are, well … pathetic.
Surrender is not a common first reaction. It’s human nature to become attached to a certain outcome. We like to think we have control. We put a lot of energy into planning, and it’s hard to think that it can all be wasted by one event that nullifies our plans.
Here’s the funny thing, though: when it comes to dancing, all the routines, all the carefully choreographed dances rehearsed over and over are what allow a couple to abandon the planned dance and spontaneously create a whole new dance. In life, all the planning, the training, and following what you believe God wants you to do is what makes you ready to just flow with the surprise, whatever it may be.
Now a little note on these “surprises.” Many of the ones I’ve experienced seemed like “bad news” at first. I’ve experienced being denied a visa to a country where I had my dream job secured; having key coworkers move on just when I thought our projects were taking off; facing illness, accidents, work falling through; losing clients; and having bad weather botch the most perfectly laid plans. These things have abruptly taken my life in unexpected directions. Yet none of them ruined my life. In some cases, the path they set my life on turned out to be so much better than what I had planned or foreseen.
Some of the most amazing people I know recognize these troublous interjections as an invitation to a special dance. They trust so well that they are able to skip the struggle and sway in time. It’s very impressive to me, and I look at them with the same kind of marvel that I feel when I watch the synchronized dancing couple. I’m amazed at how the quick turns, dips, and bends of the dance of their life seem to happen gracefully and without struggle. The beauty of their peace definitely confirms that their approach to a “surprise” works better than mine.
The good news is that I can be sure there will be more surprises, and I have the opportunity to practice getting better at flowing instead of struggling. As I write this, I know that there are going to be unexpected happenings and events ahead that I could not have predicted. My prayer is that I will flow with the dance, and that I will not resist or struggle—at least not so much that I ruin the dance.
Jesus wants to make your life extraordinary, and He’ll use every little twirl, dip, bend, and lift to create the most beautiful dance, if you’ll just flow with it.
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