Growing up in a religious environment, there had always been an emphasis on discerning and following “God’s will” for one’s life. There was this notion that God had a plan for every single one of us and that our job was to do our best to yield to that plan—ranging from following whatever vocation we were “called” towards, to pursuing whichever spouse God had “set apart” for us.
This was both relieving and frightening. On one hand, if things didn’t work out, I could always say, “It wasn’t meant to be. God has better things in store.” But on the other hand, I was always deathly afraid of making the wrong decision. What if I discerned incorrectly? What if I took the wrong turn and made some bad decisions? Could that mean missing out entirely on “God’s best” for my life that would bring the most meaning, fulfillment, virtue, and fruits? Was it over for me then? Would any other experience ever since making that wrong turn merely be a cursed, second-hand, counterfeit version of the life, the spouse, the vocation, or even the person I was “supposed to” be?
This whole idea that there was something “meant for me” that I was supposed to “discover” felt both hopeful and intimidating; I felt so much pressure to “act right” so as to not miss out on this “calling”. I felt too paralyzed to make any decision out of fear of making the wrong one. And then I started getting this twisted idea that God was like some sadistic scientist, watching us lab rats make our way through the maze of life to see if we’d make the right turn, or get caught in a boobytrap for making the wrong one. Every time I fell down and felt the sting of my metaphorical wounds, I felt as if it was God rubbing it in my face and saying, “See? This is what happens when you aren’t in line with me.”
But one metaphor that has begun to free me from this twisted view of God is to think of our relationship as a partner dance.
In a partner dance, there are typically two roles: that of the ‘lead’, and that of the ‘follow’. As you can probably guess, the lead initiates the dance moves, whereas the follow’s job is to be as receptive as possible to the lead’s prompts and essentially do what the lead suggests they do. But the keyword really is ‘suggest’; the lead starts the intention, but the follow completes it. There is no act of force. The follow always has free will.
Perhaps this is my relationship with God: I am the follow, he is the lead. I can follow his lead with my own free will, but we are still in an act of co-creation. There is no fatalism, because life is not pre-choreographed (pre-destined). The lead gives his intention for the next dance, but it is always intermixed with the influence (free will) of the follow. The dance is never the equivalent of a lifeless puppet being moved by strings. As they say, “It takes two to tango.”
It would be false to say that making one wrong move during a partner dance means that the rest of the dance is irrevocably ruined, that we completely missed our chance at the ‘proper’ one.
In fact, the most enjoyable dances are those where when one person makes a mistake, their partner makes the most out of it, and together they co-create a new version of the dance that may be different from what the lead originally had in mind, but no less beautiful. It’s when you transform one “wrong” move into an entirely new one and just go with it.
The dance goes on. None of us stomps off the dance floor and ends the dance prematurely just because of a few mistakes and missed turns. There is no dwelling on what the dance was “supposed to be”, because it’s not a pre-choreographed dance: it’s an organic movement co-created by two people, a wonderful mix of intentionality and spontaneity.
Don’t get me wrong: there are very real consequences to our mistakes. Dances don’t go as smoothly when partners ‘disconnect’ from one another. The steps can get clunky when we back-lead instead of follow, or when we incorrectly try to predict what a lead is guiding us do instead of simply following with abandon. But none of this means that the dance has been ruined in its entirety. It can still be salvaged. The dance can still be beautiful even if you missed that perfectly timed cambré. In fact, no dance is ever truly over until partners walk away for good.
My point is that perhaps God is more like the type of lead who puts us at ease by making the most out of our errors, transforming them into something new and beautiful, rather than halting the dance entirely because we failed to properly follow his promptings.
Maybe the fact that we have free will shows that proper decision-making involves a mix of consulting the Holy Spirit’s guidance while simultaneously exercising our own judgment and rationality—and trusting that even if we make the wrong decision or take the wrong turn, God can still work with us to salvage it and make the most out of it.
The journey of “following God’s will” is not fixed; it’s dynamic. It’s an act of co-creation, not puppeteering. We have free will for a reason. Our mistakes do not necessarily mean that the whole “dance of life” is ruined; it can still come to fruition in alternative ways. It’s an act of flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and resilience. A car can miss a couple of significant turns yet still arrive at its intended destination. God can work with our mistakes, as long as we try to stay connected.
So don’t be afraid. Just do your best with what you know and he’ll take care of the rest. The dance is not yet over.
– Celine (@itscelinediaz)