Dance, Don’t Wrestle

I can feel it when it happens. Can you? A tense conversation begins to escalate and my strong emotions, my perspective, my concerns, my fears, all begin to fuel my desperation to be heard.

To be understood. To appeal to reason. To prevail.

And I wrestle. If it is someone I care for deeply, I give it my all.

And God is right. “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” (Prov. 10:19)

I say too much. I say it with too much passion. I sound strident and angry and inflexible.

All the love I truly feel for the other person is drowned out by my own voice. Instead, I usually end up injured and injuring- emotionally and physically exhausted.

Everyone has hard moments in relationships. It is a normal part of life, but it can be super helpful to have tools to navigate the stormy times. As I sat in a seminar last month, the speaker gave us this advice that has been super helpful and timely for me:

 You need to change how you are communicating. You need to dance, not wrestle. When you sense you are beginning to wrestle, shift back to where you were last dancing together about the topic and reapproach it from another angle.

Hmmm…it sounded good, but would it work when tensions were high?

The very next day it was showtime. I had to work through a super messy, emotional, life changing conversation with someone I love. I wrote “dance, don’t wrestle” on a piece of paper and set it between us.

We faced each other with those three words as the referee.

By God’s grace, as we haltingly tried to move forward in our hard talk, we began to “dance.” I stepped on her toes. She stepped on mine. But, we persevered.

When I felt the urge to “wrestle” or when I could tell she was ready for a throw-down, I shifted us back to the place in the discussion where we had been on the same page. From there, I would try to reapproach the hard topic from a new angle.

It took us a long time. This dancing conversation continued off and on for two more days as we waded through deep waters of differing perspectives and hard decisions. But I was proud of us. We mostly danced and never had an all-out wrestling match (yes, sometimes we got close). Because we had experienced successful dancing, we wanted to keep the dance going.

That was nearly a month ago. Those three words have stuck with me as I think about all of my life, not just hard conversations. Life gives us many opportunities to choose to dance or wrestle. As a friend, pointed out: the words aren’t actually saying anything new. It is just a new way to express what Jesus already told us to do: Love others the way you want to be loved.

No one wants to feel verbally or emotionally overpowered and wrestled into submission.

I have found myself wondering am I dancing or wrestling with God in the midst of the days of my life? It has been humbling to realize that I do a whole lot of wrestling with Him about the parts of my life that feel hard. Sigh.

I really want to be responsive and willing to stay in step with Him but some of His dances I have trouble following. He is a bold, strong, fearless dance lead.

But, I hope I become a better dancer as I grow to trust His leading and focus more on following Him, rather than bossing Him around this dance floor called my life.

Life is harder than I ever imagined it would be. In the six years since John died, my unexpected journey has continued to surprise and confound me with new twists and turns.

Maybe, like me, your life keeps you on your toes (& knees). I am glad for the company.

May God encourage you in the midst of the messiness of your life that He will meet you right there in the smack-dab middle of it, take your hand, and lead you to dance with Him again, or for the very first time.

And, may He teach us how to dance with one another.

hoping for more dancing than wrestling this week,
maria