Thirty-nine years ago, I accomplished the impossible: I graduated as a single male from BYU. Very rare back in 1977. Relatively common today.
I moved to Houston with no wife in tow. Young LDS singles being sparse, I was constantly on the look-out for a future spouse. City wide dances were held every couple of months. Prime occasions to meet someone cute and available. I don’t think I ever missed a dance. Within 1 1/2 years, I was married to my sweetheart. Singles dances faded into the distant past.
During those long-ago dances, I observed a rather interesting ritual. There was a particular single man who attended regularly. I’ll call him John. He always brought a date. The very same date. I think they were engaged.
John followed a predictable pattern. As the evening progressed he would only dance a couple of times with his delightful & dependable companion. However, he danced every song…..with a different girl! He was pretty picky and chose carefully who he asked. You see, back then, there were girls who could count on dancing all night. And….then, there were girls who could only hope. Of course, these women were not deficient….in any way! They may have been a bit different, but not deficient, defective, or discardable. Never-the-less, there they were, lining the walls, filling a chair. These are the women with whom John chose exclusively to dance the night away.
Fast forward almost 40 years. I didn’t see it at the time. Maybe John didn’t either. But, I see now that he was…..Dancing with Jesus.
One of my favorite spiritual teachings is found in Matthew 25.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least, ye have done it unto me.” What a drop-dead gorgeous, tear-in-the-eye, teaching! One of the mainstays for me choosing to follow Christ.
Back to John. The women he chose to dance with certainly were not the “least” in most situations. But, for some reason, that evening, they were the “least” in the cultural hall. Literally, they were at the margins. Isn’t that the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry? Reaching out to those marginalized by society? John was Dancing with Jesus.
Over the years, I have often thought about the concept of the “least of these.” Occasionally, I’ve attempted to implement it. At this point, I’d like to Dance with Jesus way more often.
So, who are the “least” around us, today? Who are the modern lepers? There are two groups that I think fit this category and that I want to actively reach out to. They are not deficient or defective in any way! They may be different.
Group 1: LGBT
For most of my life, society and the Mormon church have viewed gay people in much the same way as lepers were viewed in Christ’s time. They have been the poster child of marginalization. Fortunately, our society is progressing. Perceptions and understandings are changing for the better. However, gay adults and children still face a very difficult road in the LDS community. Parents and siblings also face daunting challenges.
I’ve decided to Dance with Jesus through my beloved gay brothers and sisters. You are my friends. I have your back. I love you.
Group 2: Faith Transitioned Mormons
Until the past couple of years, I would have never considered this a marginalized group. I didn’t even know they existed. Naive and sheltered was I. No more. I have personally witnessed the pain, anguish, and alienation of many members whose faith has been challenged by history and doctrine that seem to have been hidden and obfuscated by the very top church leaders.
Questioning, transitioning or transitioned members have no safe place within the church to discuss and work through their issues. Rather, they are frequently judged as prideful, lazy, sinful or desiring to sin. Often they FEEL alone and shunned. Often they ARE alone and shunned.
So, I am now Dancing with Jesus through my good transitioning brothers and sisters. You are dear friends. I have your back. I love you, no matter what path you choose.
Do I know exactly what I’m doing or how to do it? Nope. Will I stub my toes? Will I step on someone’s feet? Yep. When I first started my ballroom hobby, I had 2 left feet. After lots of work, I’ve advanced to: ½ right foot and 1 ½ left. Progress! In this new dance, I’m pretty sure I can count 3 left feet. But, I’m Dancing with Jesus. He led the leper. He’ll lead me.
Now, on to Dancing with Jesus.