on living with abandon: 2 Corinthians 2

read 2 Cor. 2.  At a dance class last weekend, the teacher kept begging us to let go.  She was teaching us a routine that involved quick turns, complicated steps and swinging limbs – necks, arms, hips, legs.  At one point, she told us to take our hair our of our pony tails.  I didn’t listen.  It seemed unnecessary. It seemed like all that loose hair would get in the way.

But finally I got so frustrated with my inability to remember the steps, I was willing to try it.  I figured, what did I have to lose?  I took out my hair elastic.  Boom.  Within minutes, I was finally dancing.  The more people in a class who throw themselves into it, the better it gets.  Abandon is contagious.  By the end, a guy on the other side of the glass wall was running on his treadmill BACKWARDS to watch.

Was it fun to own those steps?  Was it fun to throw our heart and soul into it?  Was it fun to be watched?  Totally.

So how do we live with that kind of abandon?  Can we make life that fun?  Does fun always have to involve the hard work we put into the beginning of the class?  Do we have to always begin slowly, trying to memorize the steps, breaking them down, repeating them over and over, asking questions, backtracking, building on what we’ve learned, and then boom – somewhere, somehow, crossing over, and reaching the place of transcendence where we own the steps and can let go?

I think so.  But that’s not a bad thing.

The Christian life is like a dance class.  We begin awkwardly.  We grow slowly.  We make mistakes.  We bump into each other.  Some people seem to have an easier time catching on.  Others never figure out the whole routine.  But we’re all in the same room together.  We’re listening to the same music.  And all of us together form one body of disparate parts that make up the whole dance.  All of us lose ourselves in something bigger, something sweeter, something we could never have achieved on our own.

To put that in practical terms, suppose that someone in your family, life, group or church is doing something wrong that negatively affects the rest of you.  There’s a process for dealing with that, and it’s always messy.  We have to stand up to sin.  We try to do it gently.  We get a little harsh.  We apologize, and try to speak the truth in love.  We ask God for wisdom in good boundary setting.  We try to set boundaries with humility, asking God to snuff out the pride that automatically rises in us when someone else is messing up; trying to remember we do the same kind of things; trying to remember that pride is the worst sin of all.  We oppose the sinner, and then when they’ve repented and changed their ways, we “forgive and comfort” them.  We must.  We can’t neglect this step.  What’s a dance when one of our fellow dancers is sprawled on the ground?

As Paul says here when he spells out these steps in this chapter: we must be familiar with Satan’s evil “schemes.”  Satan has a bunch of dirty tricks, and one of them is to kick us when we’re down.  When we mess up, he tells us to give up.  He tells us we ARE a mess. He tries to sink us in shame and blame, and then he tries to sink everyone around us by telling them they’re better than we are.  He tells us to leave each other lying face down.  Instead, we take turns holding out our hands to lift each other up off the floor.  We are all lucky to be Christ’s ‘captives.’  We want to stay in God’s room.  We don’t want to walk out His door.  We want to keep listening to His music. We want Him to “continue to lead us.”

Letting God lead makes us a “sweet perfume,” as Paul says here.  We become the aroma of Christ.  Paul says we shouldn’t expect everyone to be attracted to the message of salvation through grace alone.  Paul says we actually smell of death and garbage to those who are perishing.  We shouldn’t take it personally.  Those people aren’t yet ready to join the fun.  They want to rely on their own hard work.  They don’t want to give up the pretense that they can be good on their own.  They want to lead.  But Paul says that to those who are on the path to eternal life, we smell like a life-giving sweet perfume.  It’s not us that smells so great, luckily, it’s just Jesus working through us. What smells sweet is our gratitude.  To be a Christian is to be thankful that God uses us despite our mis-steps, weaknesses, and selfishness. To me, that’s the biggest miracle of all.

When we do our part, and stay in the room, listen to our teacher, practice our steps, retreat the moment we realize we’ve gone in the wrong direction, keep at it, and most of all, trust the process… boom.  Transcendence hits.  Abandoned living begins.  We’re no longer living in all our old unhealthy addictions, but as addicts of God’s loveliness.  We’ve let go of being rule bound constipated, just-try-harder people.  We’re abandoned to the sweetest of teachers, the kindest of friends, the most compassionate of healers, the most understanding of kings.  A life of joy is so much more fun than one of self-righteousness, self-pity, anger and bitterness.  It will make people not just run backwards on treadmills, but get off them completely.  They’ll come in and join the party.

Because our Lord Jesus LOVES a party.  His first miracle was at a wedding.  He told story after story that compared heaven to a feast.  Remember Mary?  She let her hair down — and wiped Christ’s feet with her hair, and He praised her to the high heavens.

Satan’s the one who tells us enjoying life is somehow wrong. He wants to tie not just our hair up in knots but our very selves.  His schemes are so evil. He hates us to have peace and joy and gratitude.  But we’re onto Him.  God calls us to a life of joy, living in abandonment to Him alone.  Don’t listen to anyone who criticizes you for enjoying your life.  Grin and tell them to come on in.

God’s door is always open to anyone who wants to dance.

posted on January 31, 2014