When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative . ~ Henri Nouwen
You could hear the collective intake of air. She’d fallen. They waited impatiently for her get up. Everyone knew the dance. They were embarrassed for her. She didn’t even seem to be trying to hit her marks.
An audible groan came from the audience. There was a short silence, a pregnant pause, before the whispering began: What ‘s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she get up? She’s ruined here!
They confirmed each others thoughts with raised eyebrows as they pelted the stage with candy and popcorn and ice from their sodas. Impatient, the foot stomping started in the far back and crept up the aisles. Even the VIP seats, the ones saved for family and friends and important patrons began to vibrate. Why won’t she just dance the dance?
If she heard them, she didn’t show it. She didn’t show anything. She hadn’t forgotten the steps. She was weary and blistered and tired of dancing. She remained crumpled and still. The spotlight swept the stage and panned the crowd, pausing on a woman who had begun working her way toward the aisle from the middle of the very last row.
As she approached the stage, the whisperers shifted their focus, urging the stranger, prompting her as she moved toward the front: Good for you! It’s about time someone sets her straight! She’s an embarrassment!
Encouraged by each others indignation, the audience began to hiss like disgruntled fans at a sporting event. Tell her if she can’t dance, we think she might be happier somewhere else.
As the woman made her way onto the stage, the crowd silenced in anticipation. She looked at the sea of scorn and quietly said: Go home. The show is over.
Just like that, the stage lights dimmed and the house lights came up. The audience shrugged into their protective clothing and turned their backs. No one noticed the lone silhouette heading for the exit sign, silently leaving the church.
I disconnected from the church that day when I found myself broken on the stage. My problem was, I wasn’t secure in the Source. It was several years before I made a physical exit and several more before I found a church that didn’t require dancing.
I found people who were flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.
Their music called me from the open windows. It was a simple tune, the sweet song of love and redemption and grace.