A number of years ago I did something I’d wanted to do for a long time—I took ballroom dancing lessons. Every time I’d see couples floating across a dance floor, I’d think, “I wish I could do that.” So when I saw a listing for a beginning ballroom dancing class, I decided to enroll.
The first Thursday night was pretty scary. There I was with this group of strangers—sure that I would make a fool of myself. We were a pretty motley crew of would-be dancers. And we were bad—really bad.
But once we discovered that we were all equally bad, we relaxed and began to talk and laugh with each other. And, almost in spite of ourselves, we even learned a few basic steps during the course of those weeks.
Toward the end of our lessons, a friend in the class decided that a group of us should go to a real ballroom dance on a Friday evening. So we mustered our courage and went. Talk about scary. As soon as we entered the room, we realized that these people knew how to dance—really dance. What they were doing didn’t look anything like what we’d been doing in class. They moved around the dance floor with sheer grace. And not one of them was counting, “One, two, three . . . One, two three . . . One, two three.”
We found a table and sat down. We had a plan—if we stayed away from the dance floor, no one else would know how bad we were. What we didn’t count on was that some of those other people would come and ask us to dance. When it happened to me for the first time, I heard myself saying, “I’m really horrible. You should ask someone else.” But my soon-to-be partner wasn’t easily discouraged.
So there I was—in the middle of a dance floor with a total stranger—and scared to death. Then something strange happened. I don’t know whether it was the music or the surroundings. But suddenly, I was dancing. I wasn’t Ginger Rogers, but I was dancing.
It was only after I retreated back to the safety of my chair that I realized what really had happened. My partner had carried me. I placed myself in his arms and followed his lead, and he carried me. And as that evening unfolded, I saw that miracle of grace repeated over and over.
It was a miracle of grace. Not just physical grace—although there was plenty of that kind of grace there that night. No, it was a miracle of grace in which people with great skill shared a dance floor with those of us who barely knew our left foot from our right. And not only shared the dance floor, but took us in their arms and carried us.
For me, that mystical evening of grace has become a metaphor for how I think we often experience God. When we feel the most alone, God comes very close. When we feel the most frightened, God’s arms wrap around us. When we feel the most vulnerable, God swoops down and carries us. An amazing miracle of grace.
As we near the end of a year that none of us could have anticipated, it probably would be easy to recall times when we felt sad or frightened, discouraged or frustrated, hopeless or angry.
But is it possible to identify times when we were amazed?
When I think back over 2020, I can identify such times—especially when I was amazed by experiencing God’s presence through people in my life. Rather than describing those specific instances, let me share general categories that represent the types of amazement.
Perhaps some of the categories will help you recall times during the past year when you were amazed by God’s presence:
Associate Executive Minister