Is your marriage like a dance, or more like a debate? Do you and your mate find yourselves staking territory, divvying up the chores and keeping score, with a constant current of conflict flowing just below the surface? Or are you enjoying the give and take, the joyful unity, of a marriage that moves along in time with beautiful harmony and rhythm? Wouldn't you rather be dancing the waltz with the love of your life than posting "no trespassing" signs?
Most of us would rather dance, no question. But it takes work. No matter how effortless the final product may seem, a great dance doesn't just happen. As I've observed great dancers of all types, I've made a few observations that not only seem rather obvious, but also have significant application to our marriages.
- A great dance requires a choreographer.
Someone writes the steps for both dancers, prescribing how they each need to move. Someone who knows the music, the dancers and the scene determines who dips, who spins, who leads, and when. Paying attention to the choreographer's direction is a basic rule for dancers of every skill level, which leads us to the second requirement:
- A great dance requires mutual submission to the choreographer's steps.
In the middle of the dance one dancer can't decide he or she doesn't really like a particular step. They can't start salsa dancing in the middle of a waltz, or decide to swing left when their partner is swinging right. If they want to move in harmony, the dancers have to do what the choreographer says.
- A great dance requires clarity of roles.
Both dancers can't lead, and both can't follow. To try to do so results in painful chaos that achieves no beauty and inspires no one. And finally, as with most things worth doing,
- A great dance requires practice, practice and then more practice.
Patience and practice produce an incredible team. As you watch old movies or you see skilled couples dancing today, you realize that after years of practice they can read one another's moves. A great male dancer doesn't yank on his partner's arm; he barely touches her and she responds with equal grace.
Good teamwork develops balance, timing, rhythm and strength, while the effort spent working together in results in synchronicity and unity of purpose. And what fun it is! You can just see it in the dancers' faces. Moving to the music in harmony with another person produces incredible joy for the dancers and is a thing of beauty for those around them.
God's design for marriage, as found in Ephesians 5, outlines the steps of the dance in perfect clarity. He is the Choreographer, he knows the music, He sets the scene. His goal is that when the man and woman are moving together to the rhythm and the music of his divine will, the partnership is a thing of beauty.
Mutual Submission to the Choreographer
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." This command stretches over this entire Ephesians passage like a canopy. It lays the groundwork, and sets the tone for all that follows. Husbands and wives (Eph. 5:22-23), parents and children (6:1-4), masters and slaves (6:5-9), are all to base their relationships on this fundamental imperative.
The word "submit" here is a very interesting and ancient military term. It means to be "under the commanding officer." Rather than promoting self-assertion, it urges readers to be subject, to submit, to one another. One commentator called this "a command to mutually desire less than one's due." Isn't that great? It's a sweet reasonableness of attitude in response to the Spirit's control. It is a divine calling to consider others more important than one's self.
Mutual submission is the dance floor itself, the space within which we have freedom to move. It requires that the man and the woman, each in a lordship relationship with Christ, come to the dance asking each other, "How can I make you successful? How can I love you more? How can I serve you?"
Male chauvinism, female manipulation, find no place here. They have evaporated before steps, roles, responsibilities, are even discussed.
This is the dance that God has designed for two people who say, "Obviously our first commitment is to submit to the Lord. He is the choreographer. God is good and God is sovereign and He loves me. I wonder what step I am supposed to take next for my marriage to honor God, bless my mate, and provide my greatest fulfillment."
Excerpted from the booklet, Men and Women, Enjoying the Difference, by Chip Ingram. Used with permission. Copyright 2000 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.