So I don’t watch television’s Dancing With The Stars—or at least I try not to. Yes, it’s cheesy. The judges are cheesy. The set comes off as some kind of overhauled soap opera court room or “upscale” restaurant set. There’s something about the lighting that reminds me of a bad day in a mall. It doesn’t help that all but a handful of the dancing celebrities conjure the most embarrassing and awkward moments of my own life—a very disconcerting parade of events. And then there’s the last judge on the right that’s just a little creepy. And so even though I try not to watch DWTS it still manages to get recorded and I still manage to see at least some of the “highlights” during the most mindless moments of the day.
But then something like Jennifer Grey happens. Like many of us, I grew up for the most part with Jennifer Grey. She played leading roles in some of the great 1980s “coming of age” films. Movies like Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have become standards. (Really, what adolescent boy could go unaffected by Red Dawn in 1984?) And Jennifer Grey was actually standing (or sitting I guess) right there on the set when Patrick Swayze said, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” Grey is one of those people that has always seemed so genuine, honest, and vulnerable to me. So hold that thought.
In the world of dancing that we’ve seen played on the small screen in recent programming like DWTS and So You Think You Can Dance I’ve come to expect praise for the male dancer not for his art as much as his strength. It’s common for judges to affirm a male dancer with things like “You were there for her”, “You were strong for her,” and “She knew she could trust you.” When the partners are at their best, working together, and putting on display the most beautiful expression of the dance … it is an absolute art form that calls to mind so much of what is good about being human and in intimate relationship. And this has never been more evident than in Jennifer’s recent Viennese Waltz on Dancing With The Stars. Apparently the song this waltz was choreographed for is a number from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and Jennifer reveals to us during the introduction that her friendship with Swayze and his recent death were very much on her mind. And so when she takes the floor in front of millions, making her heart and most intimate internal dialog a matter of public record, what she needed most was a partner who could “be there for her”. And the result was beautiful in the rarest sense.
So what does this have to do with small groups and small group community. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with it, I don’t guess. It’s OK for beautiful things to have their own address and stand on their own merit. But I would say that if we’re serious about small-group community we could stand to learn a lot from a less-than-perfect Viennese Waltz during which one partner provides strength and another is allowed to be transparent, vulnerable, and beautifully broken. So the lesson is that we don’t always have to have all the steps right, but we must work toward mastering the art of being present.
Yes, learning what the Bible reveals to us about life and our reaction to circumstances is crucial. And for sure we should be in Bible study and memorizing Scripture. But there’s also the spiritual discipline of community to be considered. This sort of community goes beyond “being friends”. The spiritual discipline of community is much closer to the sort of relationship put on display by Derrick Hough and Jennifer Grey than the sort of relationships most of us find ourselves in. True authentic and redemptive community moves us from the would-be mathematical formulas for life, getting the right steps into a fluid and elegant dance—together. Thus it only stands to reason that when you’ve got a bunch of people trying to dance, there’s always potential for something magical to happen. So here it is. Now this is dancin’.