One of the ways that I have experienced God’s smile towards me over the course of my (so far) 41 years of life has come in the form of being married to a Puerto Rican. My bride is an olive skinned, dark haired, darker eyed, Spanish speaking, Salsa dancing, arroz con gandules cooking, coqui loving, Boricua from San Juan. She follows Jesus, she loves our kids and she honors me more than I deserve.
I have learned a ton from my bride over our almost 15 years of marriage. I have been exposed to so many facets of life that I likely never would have experienced had we not met. And I suspect most marriages could probably make similar claims. But there is something a bit unique about marrying into a culture different than your own. One of those “different” experiences for me has come in the form of an exposure to Susie’s affinity for Latin and Caribbean music. Although “affinity” might not fully do justice to what the rhythms of Salsa and Merengue do to my sweet bride.
It’s actually kind of funny. We can be anywhere, sitting at home, walking through the mall, driving down the road… wherever. And when Salsa or Merengue rhythms begin to flow through the speakers, her response is utterly Pavlovian. The music starts and her hips start moving, her feet start shuffling, her eyes just kind of close and her head leans back a little and she’s dancing, completely unaware of the (significantly less Latin and apparently more self-conscious) world around her.
And I think that is beautiful. Because here is what my bride’s response teaches me. For one thing, it teaches me to appreciate beauty in cultures other than my own. And honestly, I could do with some more of that.
But on another, deeper level, my wife, God’s good gift to me, teaches me something about how we are called to live out the implications of the gospel. I am reminded that if we are going to dance, we’ve got to hear the music. And I’m not talking about merely listening to it, but truly hearing both the lyric and the rhythm, with ears and with soul. She doesn’t just listen to the music, the music moves her.
So I am led to ask myself, do I truly hear the lyric of the gospel story. It is certainly good for me to listen with my seminary trained ears to all of the finer theological points of “the incarnation”, and “substitutionary atonement”, and the “ordo salutis”. It is good and necessary to be reminded of the lyric of Jesus’ Christ’s faithful and sinless life, his substitutionary death, his triumphant resurrection, and his promised coming return… all on behalf of a people who rightly deserve Gods wrath.
We are most often reminded of this lyric through venues like our own personal reading of Scripture, through our regular attendance in weekly gathered worship in a local body where we hear the gospel faithfully proclaimed through the preaching of God’s Word, through the singing of hymns and spiritual songs, through the regular observance of the sacraments of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We do this through our consistent and ongoing participation in smaller gatherings such as Community Groups and Discipleship Groups where we share meals and time and life, reminding one another of the unparalleled beauty (and challenge) of these lyrics. This is good and necessary and supremely holy.
But it is not just the lyric. Have you ever been around a community of believers who got the content of the lyric but had no music or beauty to go along with it? It would be kind of like attending a Salsa listing room. (Those don’t exist by the way. It’s just not what Salsa was built for!) Like Salsa and Merengue, the Gospel is so much more than mere lyric. It is also music and rhythm that is intended to lead us to dance.
We have to ask ourselves as a people whether or not we are hearing and responding to these Gospel rhythms. Is the consistent intake of the gospel lyric actually leading our feet and hips to move? Have the lyric and rhythm of gospel-grace become such a part of the fabric of our lives that as soon as we hear the music, are our eyes (which are far too often focused on self or other lesser things) able to close? Are we able to just kind of let the gospel rhythm take over? Those rhythms of repent, believe the lyric, dance; repent, believe the lyric, dance.
What would our neighbors think of us if we danced more? Or better yet, what would they think of a God who led His people to live out such beauty?
This is doctrine that leads us to dance.
Repent. Believe the lyric. Dance.