I am looking out of the window towards the bottom of our garden … and the buddleia are dancing! Our neighbours had the trees that back on to our garden lopped last year, and the buddleia that were already growing there took full advantage of the extra space and light and have grown up high and now stand tall and stately high above the fence – beautiful mauve and white flowers that greet me every morning now with a gentle wave when I draw the curtains.
Today, however, the buddleia are dancing! They are full of life and energy, lost in a frenetic dance, oblivious of me or anyone else who happens to be watching, deliriously happy. The weather outside is horrendous – the rain is sheeting down and the wind is blowing violently scattering the flower pots all over the place – but the buddleia are dancing!
In a strange way, I am reminded of the old Celtic Church illustration of inner peace as a bird, sitting on a broken branch, above a raging torrent, during a violent storm … singing! The ‘peace’ that Jesus spoke of when he told his disciples prior to his ascension: ‘I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid’ (John 14:27); the peace the Apostle Paul spoke of when he promised the Philippian Church ‘you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7); is not something that is dependent upon the absence of stress and difficulty, but something that we can experience amid stress and difficulty.
David Suchet, the well-known actor, known primarily for his brilliant portrayal of Agatha Christie’s eccentric detective, Hercule Poirot, was recently asked about his philosophy of life. His response was, ‘I’m a Christian … it sees me through a great deal of my life. I very much believe in the principles of Christianity … that one must abandon oneself to a higher good. I think to accept the now and to live in the present is the most important thing for all of us to learn to do – to be able to live in the present and not let the quality of the present be coloured by the fear or anxiety of the future or the pain of the past.’
There is a fascinating story in the Old Testament (in 2 Samuel 6) where we are told that King David ‘danced ecstatically and enthusiastically with great abandon before God’ (v.14). Why did David suddenly do this? Well, many years before this time, the Ark of the Covenant had been captured from Israel by the Philistines, but now it had been recovered. The Ark was essentially a box which contained items like the Ten Commandments and some of the manna from the wilderness etc., … items from their history with God. This Ark was a symbol of the presence of God. For about 30 years under King Saul, the nation had been without the Ark as part of their national worship. But now David was King, the Ark of the Covenant had been recovered, and he wanted to bring it to Jerusalem, his new capital city which was to be the religious centre, as well as the political centre, of the nation. For the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant symbolised the immediate presence of God with his people. This was more than just symbolism, however, because when the Ark of the Covenant was housed (during the journey to Jerusalem) for three months in the house Obed-Edom the Gittite ‘the Lord blessed him and his entire household’ (v.11). It was the sudden realisation of the fact that the Living God was with them in a tangible way – even though there were plenty of trials and testings ahead of them, as well as battles yet to be won – that caused David to throw off all his inhibitions and dance, dance, dance!
In much the same way we too, even if the ability to dance does not come naturally to us – ‘typical Dad dancing’ both my wife and daughter call my feeble attempts when occasionally on display at a party or wedding reception – can dance like the buddleia (on the inside at the very least) in the face of anything and everything life throws at us. As the Writer to the Hebrews reminds us, ‘God has said, “Never will I leave you – never will I forsake you!” so, in response, we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper – I will not be afraid – what can human beings do to me?”’ (Hebrews 13:5,6).