One of my favorite movies is Shall We Dance? Partly because I can relate to the main character, John Clark, who seems to have it all, yet secretly longs for more. Life has become stale for him amongst all the routine busyness, and something is missing…that something is his heart.
Likewise, the lead female character, Paulina (and dance instructor), has a story of her own lost passion—once focused and fiery, now buried and locked away. She hides herself in duty and passionless teaching, short of temper and patience. Her distance is kept by her icy ways of communicating with others, especially John…the one person who has the key to unlock her heart again.
Before we get too much farther, let me pose a question: how would you best describe your life right now? Alive? Free? Passionate? Or dutiful? Busy? Stale?
At one point in the movie we learn what has brought Paulina to this lifeless state. Exposed was the loss of her first love years before through a tragic scene of events on the competition dance floor. It wasn’t a true love to begin with, and her partner’s selfish intentions were revealed when her fall cost them a highly esteemed title in the world of dance.
Now John threatens to open the wounded part of her that she has worked so hard to protect. Despite her best efforts, he eventually breaks through, as his newfound passion in the freedom of dancing awakens hers once again. Though clumsy at first, John becomes quite the dancer, and finds himself signed up for one of Chicago’s finest dance competitions.
The only one who can take him to the level he is capable of is Paulina. She finally agrees to help him, and they meet one night alone at the dance studio. The music is intense, and so is the atmosphere as his strength begins to unlock her tightly sealed vulnerability. Paulina breaks away in fear and frustration a couple of times, but the reminder of what it feels like to be alive again pushes her to get back in the dance. She finally releases herself and leans into the strength holding her, abandoning herself to the music once again.
When the healing of our heart begins, usually something happens, a crisis of sorts, an awakening, etc. Somehow we begin to see that something just isn’t quite right; life is not the way it was meant to be, and far from what we long for it to be. Also, in the beginning of recovering that life, it can feel scary. Intimidating. Confusing. And we are tempted to push away. There is something so unfair about the way the enemy comes and cuts in with fear, tempting us to believe that the life we want is not worth fighting for.
Early in the movie described, we see Paulina looking out a window of the dance studio. She tries to keep her lost stares and her blank expressions hidden from the rest of the world. Yet hopes of surviving through duty and self-protection are challenged when John comes on the scene. Little does she know at first that the keys to true freedom are at hand.
So it is with God in our lives. After running long and hard away from my past, a few great losses too close together stripped me of all the strength I’d carried. Then my tightly built, self-made walls of security came crashing down around me. It was in that desert place God came for me in the most unexpected ways. And He comes for you just the same, Dear Friend.
“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”
(Hosea 2:14-15 NLT)
Jesus knows the key to unlocking our heart is found in facing our past. It first takes stripping us of all our destructive ways of survival and self-protection. Then we must go back to the place where we were once wounded and recover what was lost, stolen, and given up there.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
(John 10:10 NIV)
One of the problems, though, is that we’ve believed a lie that what happened in our past doesn’t matter. We fail to see how our past shaped us and made us who we are now. We try to forget the past, but even if we do attempt facing it, well-meaning people tell us to “just let it go.”
Ever wonder what in the world that means? Listen clearly, Friend, letting go only comes in healing. If it didn’t, then Jesus would not have made a big deal out of being the one who comes to heal the brokenhearted!! (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4)
Our minds do not have the ability to forget our wounds forever, and our hearts are not able to just pick up and move on as if nothing ever happened. If we try, we’ll carry the bloody footprints of our hearts with us every where we go. Just look at the desolate woman next door, or the one who fights to be the center of attention at work. Yes, even the one exhausted by controlling her world and almost every person in it. (the latter was me)
As we begin to dig into the recesses of our pasts, I realize how painful some reminders will be. No one wants to go there, but take heart…we are not going alone. Jesus is going with us…He wants to heal us, set the record straight, and restore what has been lost and stolen. Remember, He wants to fix it. (“When Partial Isn’t Good Enough” January archive)
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
(Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV, prophesying of Jesus)
Only Jesus holds the keys to unlock our heart, and with His healing, bring the liveliness, passion, and freedom we long for. He knows the dance steps, and He leads with a strength we can trust. Take courage. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!