I wish I could dance. Really dance; like the professionals you see in ballroom dancing competitions. I love going to weddings, and I think that if I knew how to dance, you wouldn't be able to keep me off the dance floor at the reception! Instead, I sit watching the fluid symmetry of motion displayed by those who really know what they are doing and I tell myself that I AM going to learn to do that someday. I'm not hopeless--I can fake my way through a slow song and I can do the Electric Slide--but, I long to really dance.
Maybe you were taught to dance when you were a child, but I was raised in a home where that was frowned on as inappropriate behavior; thus my ignorance of this art form. I don't know the footwork or the way to hold my arms or how to let someone lead or any of the essential aspects of dancing. However, that doesn't mean I can't learn.
I was also raised in a home where a healthy marital relationship, a Biblical example of what Paul describes in Colossians and Ephesians, was not really visible. My parents' marriage was dysfunctional and ended in divorce when I was 14 years old. I didn't really learn good communication skills or "how to let someone lead" like I might have from observing a successful marriage. When I was a young teen, I was afraid marriage. I wasn't afraid of relationships; I enjoyed dating and had a couple of serious boyfriends. However, I was truly afraid of marriage. To be honest, I was afraid of failing at marriage. Shortly after my parents split, I had read a statistic somewhere about children of divorce and how much more likely they were to be divorced themselves. I had convinced myself that, in the arena of marriage, I was pretty much doomed to failure. It's a good thing I kept reading, because a couple of years later I read an article on this same subject and this time what I read gave me hope. According to the author, some new research indicated that children raised by divorced parents could reduce their risk of going down the same road by educating themselves about relationships and by learning appropriate communication skills. It was like a light at the end of a dark tunnel for me! Of course, the tunnel was long and the light was just a small flicker, but I had some hope. I took every class on Marriage and Family, Communication, and Biblical relationships that my high school and college offered. I absorbed every nugget of advice I could find. I was determined to learn how to be successful in relationships and improve my odds.
The summer I fell in love with my husband was the summer my panic and fear returned. I knew I loved him, but I held him at arms length because I was afraid to love someone that much and lose them. He came from this wonderful family that was intact and loving and everything I ever wanted. As I witnessed the incredibly respectful and tender relationship his parents shared, I saw what I wanted most in life. As I panicked, I realized that I loved him so much that I didn't want to inflict my relational baggage on him. I told him every horrible mistake I had ever made. I warned him about the risk of loving me. I tried my best to protect him from my worst fears.
That was the beginning of learning this dance called marriage. It began long before I proposed to him (yes, I did--but that's another story) and before we said "I do". It began when he looked me in the eyes and told me I was perfect for him and my past was just that--my past. He listened to all the reasons he should run away and then he held me close and told me he wasn't going anywhere. I followed his lead then, and it was the best choice I have ever made!
I should have known how good my husband would be at this dance. He was raised in the home of master dancers and watched every step they took. He saw the tender way his father treated his mother; he observed the respect and admiration his mother had for his father. He learned the steps to this dance called marriage by observing the masters and doing what they had done. I wish I could say I that I have never stepped on his toes or tried to lead, but I would be lying. When I did, the dance just wasn't a smooth or beautiful, and I would realize that he knew what he was doing. Twenty-eight years later, we know the steps and the twirls and even the dips and it's an even more incredible experience that I imagined when I watched from the outside.
In the next decade, we will probably watch all three of our children get married. We will go to the reception and celebrate the love that each of them have found. And, I promise, you won't be able to keep me off of that dance floor.