The body moves out ahead of the feet, then the feet catch up. There is an embracing and then a release. Emotion is high. Heads move back and forth, legs kick and flail with intention. Twists in spot, a dip. This is a dance characterized by sudden movements that might, to the outsider, look jerky or not well coordinated. Expressions are intense. It’s the tango.
Now think of a dance where it appears the participants are effortlessly sailing through the air. Embrace is steady, bodies elegantly leaning back, heads turned to the opposite sides with relaxed smiles stretched across the faces, brows slightly raised. There is a steady rise-and-fall rhythm as the whole of the dance floor is covered by their movement. It’s the waltz.
I’m no dance expert… but life’s a tango. As much as I might want it to be a waltz, it is definitely a tango.
Several years back, a male colleague surveyed my professional intensity (workaholism) and told me I needed to have children. While I was miffed by the inappropriateness of the comment at the time, I get it now. And at times I want to find him to tell him he was right.
Children were an important trigger for me to re-think how I want to do life. When they came, I realized that I didn’t want to wait for a diagnosis or a crisis in order to shape a life that is more intentional and selective. Their arrival ushered in a new resolve to much more judiciously evaluate and choose priorities. I want to choose the right things for energy and investment in the right moment. I am motivated to steward time differently, knowing it is one of the few commodities you can in no way make up later.
So, I am in a season of leaning into living with the end goal in mind and considering what it looks like to live a life of what matters most. And I still feel I am somewhat at the beginning of that dance. It is a process that is far less linear than I would like now, not that it ever was linear. There’s a sense of the different pulls, constant changes in the pace, moves that to the outside probably look pretty messy. It’s not a smooth rise-and-fall around the loop. Not so easy as:
Love God, step.
Love family, step.
Serve and fellowship, step.
Exhibit holistic health, step.
Excel professionally, step.
Make the world a better place… step, swoop. Repeat.
It feels a bit more disjointed than that, with many more head turns, many more staccato steps, more overall appendage waving. It is aiming to connect spontaneous movements right now in different and sometimes non-rhythmic orders.
That is because I have more to account for than I once did, and yet it is all one thing. The same thing.
To love God and to love others is circular and sums up all my priorities. For example. Loving God is spending time with him and loving and serving my family well. Because when I do love and serve them, I also love him. Missional vocation is also service to God and to my family, both. I use abilities to contribute to the advancement of his work while helping to provide for my household today and tomorrow. Care for my soul, likewise, is to stay in relationship with the Lord so I have from where to draw for my family and team. And trying to stay on top of my physical care, food and rest and movement, enables it all. It’s all one thing, though different interconnected moves.
Believe me, I’ve tried to find the formula or the recipe for waltzing through each as a separate and perfectly sequenced priority. The planner and achiever in me would like to find the exact order. Maybe I’m the outlier – though I know I am not – but I am not finding it. While I haven’t yet fully mastered the beat, here is what I’ve picked up so far as the rules of this dance.
Give grace for the rehearsal. This is all a rehearsal for the main thing anyway, and rehearsals are a safe place to miss a step then try again. So I will give myself grace for the choppiness. And also ask it of those watching.
Read the timing. The whole dance isn’t done at once. It is step by step, according to the passage of music and time. I don’t need to worry about the crescendo or finale just yet. Only the portion I am dancing now.
Enjoy the step. Something new is invigorating. Learning moves and skills and values today will surely be brought to use again later. I have every reason to enjoy and celebrate purpose in this new, open-ended sequence.
Embrace the story. There is a tale being worked out, a deeply emotional and beautiful story. I should let the power of it wash over and move me as often as I can. I should fully give in to what’s on the other side of each pivot.
So I am learning to tango even while I’m aspiring to waltz the dance of what matters most. But maybe I’ll never get to the waltz. Maybe tango is my dance for the indefinite score. And that’s just fine in the end. It’s not better or worse, just different style. My own, quick-moving, slightly raw, passionate style. And I have the Master to guide me.