Editorial: Life is like a poorly choreographed dance

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Life is like a poorly choreographed dance. The music is ever-changing, dancers come and go, and each pair is trying to get through another song without stepping on each other’s toes, running into another pair or collapsing. Then there are the solo dancers, the groups and the lines. Only one thing doesn’t change—the floor.

Occasionally, we need to step off the dance floor to rest. As we rest, we can observe the dancers still on the floor and get a better sense of what’s really going on.

Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Martin Linsky use this metaphor in their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. As a leadership principle, they advocate not just getting off the dance floor, but getting up on a “balcony” overlooking the dance floor. This balcony time gets a leader out of the forest—to mix metaphors—to get perspective on what’s really happening with the trees.

“Getting on the balcony” isn’t just a leadership principle; it’s a life principle.

The dance floor of life is particularly unsettled now. We need to get some perspective. It will do us good.

The problem with our metaphorical dance floor is not that it is crowded. The problem—as we tend to see it—is what we remember as feeling more like an ordered square or line dance now feels like a mosh pit. The dancers and moves we learned to anticipate now seem utterly chaotic and threatening.

Be forewarned: The following may raise your anxiety or blood pressure, but there’s good news on the other side.

Global politics

Of prime concern is Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russia isn’t just alluding to nuclear weapons; they now are speaking openly of their use. A second concern is the delicate dance China and the United States are engaged in over the status of Taiwan.

A flare-up some may have overlooked is the Iranian government shutting down the nation’s internet last week in response to growing protests after a Kurdish woman died in the custody of the morality police. Today, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard delivered an air strike against Kurds in Northern Iraq.

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Close to home, there is some anxiety over the fast-approaching Nov. 8 election. Questions include: Will our elections be secure? Will election officials find enough poll workers? Who will win? How will the election outcome be received? What will follow?

Texas experienced a poll worker shortage during the 2022 primary election, and a similar shortage is anticipated nationwide for the general election.

These are just the most recent higher-profile concerns. Not to be ignored is the political upheaval in Burma/Myanmar; the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Muslim/Hindu riots in Leicester, U.K.; and unrest in so many more places.

Global economics

Inflation is raging around the world. Food and energy prices are unsustainable for countless millions. The Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world aren’t just raising interest rates to halt inflation; they are knowingly and intentionally sacrificing market stability to achieve more stable markets.

Global climate

A list of global climate concerns could be endless. Here are a handful.

The western United States is enduring its worst drought in 1,200 years. Monsoon floods in Pakistan are so severe it could take six months for the water to recede. Hurricane Ian made landfall south of Tampa, Fla., this afternoon while I wrote this editorial.

Methane gas is leaking from allegedly sabotaged Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Denmark. The largest leak is about 1 kilometer—0.62 miles, or almost 11 football fields, or a 233-story skyscraper—in diameter. It may be two weeks before the leaks can be investigated because of the danger of entering the area any sooner.

Global health

Along with COVID continuing to sicken and kill millions worldwide, common respiratory viruses seem to be making a comeback among children. Monkeypox and polio also are a concern.

The availability of water is a growing problem. The months without drinkable water in Jackson, Miss., is just one example of the global water crisis, which often overlaps with politics, economics, climate, race and other complicating factors.

Food insecurity has risen markedly over the last two years, aggravated by the COVID pandemic, political and armed conflicts, climate change and economic volatility.

Oh, and Baptists

Baptists and other Christians are also amid the seemingly out-of-control dance. In just the last several days, we heard rumors of Adam Greenway resigning as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After reaching out immediately to Greenway and seminary officials, we finally received confirmation late the following day.

Yes, Greenway did resign. Why, we don’t know. He said he was going to the International Mission Board. Today, he tweeted he is not. O.S. Hawkins was the announced interim president. On Sept. 27, seminary trustees announced David Dockery will be interim president, co-leading with Hawkins.

Meanwhile, Texas Baptists are seeking a new executive director after David Hardage’s retirement. As with any leadership vacancy, many have “who,” “when” and “what” questions. Also, Houston Baptist University changed its name to Houston Christian University, sparking a different set of questions and reactions.

One sure thing

Global concerns can be held at arm’s length, but not forever. They frequently become personal. Then, they can overwhelm.

How are you? Anxious?

The dance floor is chaotic and threatening indeed. We are anxious about personal, social and institutional survival in multiple directions and levels—and for good reason. But not everything is chaotic and threatening. Still, the uncertainty of even benign change can unnerve and unsettle us.

When we’re in the middle of the turmoil, it’s all we can see. We need to step off the dance floor and get some perspective.

When we step back from the dance and take everything in, we will see one sure thing—the floor isn’t moving.

In a spiritual sense—and no less real for being spiritual—Jesus Christ is the unmoving floor just as much as he is the “Lord of the dance,” to use the title of an Irish song by The Dubliners.

While acknowledging much is uncertain, chaotic and threatening about our world at the moment, one thing is for sure—the Lord Jesus Christ is a sure foundation. Everything we do stands or falls on him.

Though I stand on this foundation—the unmoving floor of Jesus Christ—I feel all the same whirling winds and hear the same roar as everyone else. In these days of volatility, we need to step off the floor and regain this perspective.

When we do, we will be renewed by the Lord of the dance telling us:

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.”

We can’t stay off the dance floor forever. Eventually, we have to get back in the dance, because that’s where Jesus Christ—the Lord of and under, above and in the dance—calls us to be.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed are those solely of the author.

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Send comments and feedback to Eric Black, our editor. For comments to be published, please specify “letter to the editor.” Maximum length for publication is 300 words.

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