Saturday night we went to the most marvelous Christmas party hosted by a couple in our church who recently purchased an old farm house. A grand, blush-colored home with a rollicking front porch and the most impressive wood floors, laid from recycled timber. Behind the house, an ancient rock wall encloses a vision of The Secret Garden.
I haven’t seen it in daylight, but believe it to closely resemble this photo, plus cobbled walks and artistically incorporated archways made of bended trees.
We ate at a winding candle lit table under a clear night sky. Strands of Christmas bulbs illuminated the crowd, dressed in velvet and sequins. A few of our more colorful friends showed up in red suede shoes and cowboy hats. We slurped homemade chilli garnished with sweet cornbread and drank sangria out of Ball jars. Hot coffee, fire pits, and golden pears. It was a studded affair.
But come next year, all we’ll remember is the dancing.
For the first hour my husband and I stood with a few shy others explaining how we don’t dance to this kind of music and justifying ourselves by ensuring everyone that we wouldn’t want to get out there for fear of making them jealous with our moves. I mentioned more than once that I dance with my hips, not my shoulders. But as the night wore on and the music gained rhythm, I swayed around and tapped my foot. It looked more fun now than it did before. OK, maybe just one song. And then I was begging my husband who eventually gave in.
Flailing around in the crowd, I was touched by a palpable sense of freedom among us.
I wish I could capture for the world the kind of community I live in. I wish I could roll it up in bacon and serve it to you, and it would make you understand what I mean.
I knew every person on that dance floor and every person knew me. We all sit in the same blue chairs on Sunday mornings. But I don’t just go to church with these people. I experience life with them. I pray in a circle with them on Tuesday nights. I eat in their homes off their tables. I walk with them after work. I make crafts with them. I keep their secrets and carry their burdens. I mourn and rejoice with them.
There was no discretion on that dance floor. Slow-motion techno torso swoops and swirling hippie arms crisscrossing overhead. Scarecrows waving forearms in the wind and robots doing double-time. Raging head-bangers in a delicate ballerina plié turned choo-choo train. The electric wobble springing spirit-finger conga strut.
With that image in my rear view, I am thinking more about community. More about what could convince the sharpest minds I know to unleash their inner Timberlake on a back yard dance floor? I remember every time I unfortunately found myself in one of those clubs downtown. I rue the 4-9 drinks it took me to finally let loose. But this, this was different. We were sober and happy. Dancing because we wanted to, because if felt good in the bones. Dancing because we knew we could here, because it was safe and love surrounded us.
Anyone who doesn’t know us would have laughed at the white people.
I laughed because I know the ocean of freedom these souls swim in.
Something remarkable took place on that plot of grass with a DJ. People were being exactly who they are. No discretion necessary. And we weren’t just dancing either, we were reveling; taking great delight in a moving celebration of the free life.
I live in a community of people where love abounds. I live in a community that cherishes relationship, lifts up the down-trodden and doesn’t forget the lonely. A community that forgives, sharpens and humbles. I live in a community that values transparency. A community where I can confess without fear and request prayer for my heart cracks. A community that celebrates my spirit, accepts my humanity, and rejoices in our diversity. I live in a community that seeks and listens and teaches. A community that prizes kindness over knowledge, and service above power. A community rich in patience and rooted in hope. I live in a community full of broken people now redeemed, colored by imperfection but steadfast in faithful obedience to the One True King.
This isn’t utopia. Anger, jealously, and selfish ambition plague us still. But it’s a little corner of the world committed to righteousness and bent on reconciliation. Ultimately, it’s good.