I had been watching too many of those romantic European period pieces, the ones where the ball is the make-or-break moment of the whole movie. Somehow the courting couple has the most intimate conversation of their lives while switching partners, stepping perfectly in line, and twirling across the dance floor, the woman in a four-foot-wide hoop dress. The artistry of the moment sets the stage, but it is the dynamic between the couple and the space between them that compels me to watch. That is the intimacy I crave.
After four months of not being able to attend Mass in person, I stepped into the sanctuary of St. John’s at Creighton. My heart exploded with a sense of being home. Sun flowed through the stained glass. Easter flowers adorned the altar and smelled heavenly. Friends waved and air hugged as I had to remain socially distant. The music of “Glory to God” echoed through the transoms. This was more beautiful than any 1700s castle ballroom in Europe.
Closing my eyes in prayer, I felt one of the deepest and most shocking consolations of my life. Jesus was standing right in front of me. He held out his hand and said, “Dance with me.” I’m not sure if it was a command or a request, but I knew there was no way I would ever refuse. All that intimacy that I craved from the movies was there in his intense gaze into my eyes. The beauty of the sanctuary fell away, and all that remained was Jesus and me, staring into each other’s eyes and dancing. It wasn’t about romance but about intimacy. Not another word was imagined between us. There was no need.
I go back to that moment of pure consolation to steady myself during tough times. I think about the reading of Peter jumping out of the boat and walking on water to get to Jesus. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could do the impossible. But when he started to focus on the waves and the fears, he lost his way. I need to keep staring into those eyes of Love while I twirl around the dance floor.
I thought about the Two Standards reflection in the Spiritual Exercises, in which one discerns under which flag to march. For St. Ignatius, the image centered on a military campaign. For me it was an invitation to dance or stay seated against the wall and just be a spectator of the festivities.
A favorite prayer encourages, “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” That has definitely been true for my 30-year marriage. But falling in love with God, not just praising God or praying to God, is a different level of intimacy that almost feels giddy. This gentleman has been patiently courting me for 53 years! As I dance through my day, we take a few steps forward, a few steps back. I switch partners for a bit. I miss a few steps. But I focus on coming back to his lead, his touch, his gaze. The only possible response in this life is, “Of course, I will dance with You!”