Two people had sort of invited me. I had nothing to do. I was determined to live in the moment, to appreciate the beauty of right now, to experience all the wonderful city had to offer. So I took four giant leaps out of my comfort zone, and I prepared to go swing dancing. Apparently, Nashville hosts this dancing every Saturday throughout the summer. It’s a party. And it was.
When packing for this internship, I definitely did not pack dancing clothes. But the nearest Goodwill has everything half off on the first Saturday of the month, so I took myself on a little excursion. I bought a book instead of clothes. Then I went to my favorite coffee shop, ordered my favorite tea (roasted chestnut), and wrote. I had to have a smidgen of normalcy in my day.
I finished the book, skimming through the last few pages and the epilogue so that I could get ready. I pulled out my favorite dress. Rigging a system to still carry my keys and phone, I twirled in front of the antique mirror, just to make sure I looked alright. The dog approved. I told the pets goodbye, took a deep breath, and left.
I didn’t realize I was driving slowly until a car started tailgating me. Unleashing my inner motivational speaker, I gave myself a little pep talk. As I crested a hill, I caught a glimpse of one of the most glorious sunsets. This giant orange ball made music city’s skyline glow. I smiled and told myself that even if all else failed, I would have gotten to see this. Just like the day before, on my lonely quest to find the Amish market, I told myself that if all else failed, I would have gotten to see the mountains. I saw the mountains and the sunset, but still I hoped that my destination wouldn’t actually disappoint, that I would have a good time in addition to the beauty on the way.
I parked far away. Families laughed together as I walked by. Friends played a game of Frisbee, reminding me of my sister and her friends. As so many do in this town, I let music be my guide. I followed the sound by the Parthenon. I saw groups of friends link arms; they tried to see if they could reach all the way around one of the columns. “Did you catch it?” they asked the boy capturing the moment on his phone. He joined their chain, and their laughed filled the coming night. A man stopped me and asked for directions. I said I was trying to find the way myself.
I found the way. It was a beautiful picture of America. Lit by swinging lanterns, friends danced to the song of summer. I found a nice tree to stand beside, and I watched. It was a joyful sight to behold, but I seemed to be the only one there alone.
“What did you expect?” I asked myself. And of course, I had an answer. I’d been planning out my expectations all weekend. Best case scenario: some other lonely soul would come up and ask to buy me ice cream, to maybe give this dancing thing a shot. Or maybe someone wouldn’t want to dance, and we would enjoy just sitting on the sidelines, watching the merriment like so many others. If that didn’t happen (and I didn’t really think it would), I would find a group of friends and join their friendship for the evening. As I stood by my tree, I drafted questions in my mind. Questions to ask to begin a friendship. But I continued living in the world of my imagination and expectations instead of actually asking anyone any of my questions.
At the very least, I thought I would find the few who had casually mentioned the fun. I might have seen one of the boys who had told me about this swing dancing thing. Before he could see me, I ducked into a garden because I’ve never been the kind of girl to just go up and talk to someone, purposelessly. I worked up courage, stashed my phone, and left my hidden garden just as he held out his hand, inviting another to dance. “No worries. Just wander.” Again my pep talk. Again, I found my tree. Suddenly, I had returned middle school. I became aware of gazes and glances (that were nonexistent) and the weight of feeling out of place left me shaking.
A sweet old man was the only one who noticed me. He said that I could sit in his lawn chair on his lovely picnic blanket while he danced with his wife.
I gave it thirty minutes. I wandered over and read a historic marker, hoping to gain inspiration and a spark of encouragement. It was growing dark, my phone was dying, and I admitted defeat. The Parthenon faded from my sight as the music and laughter grew dimmer and dimmer. I chastised myself through the entire drive back. As my GPS tried to take me down one way roads (the wrong way) and I made silly driving errors, I wished for a better version of me. I wished I was the sort of girl who was bold, who could make easy conversation with strangers, who could trust.
I fed the cat, I pet the dog, I killed a spider the size of my fist, and I made myself a nice mug of hot chocolate. I sprinkled marshmallows on top and used a smidgen of chocolate syrup to crown the marshmallows with a smiley face. They melted too quickly; my tribute to happiness turned creepy. I took a sip and burned my tongue. Internally lecturing myself again, I told myself that there are people in much sadder situations than I am. I still have the most wonderful family, a great community of friends at home, and my dream job. No one has died, no one has brutally broken my heart; I was simply lonely.
But it was not just the lonely night that had me feeling rather blue. Deep down, it was the fear that had me frowning. I was afraid I was missing the dance. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t doing something right. I was afraid I was I going to miss a friendship. And here in this romantic town during wedding season, if I am being honest, I was afraid I might miss a friendship that could lead to something more. I played out scenarios and even conversations in my head, and when none of them happened like I thought they would, the fragile hold I had on my imaginary future began to shake.
The fear of missing out did, in fact, make me miss out on the greatest of friendships, the greatest of loves. When I tried to control my little world and my little future, I unintentionally diminished God’s sovereignty. I forgot, and I let the tiny suspicion that maybe He doesn’t have a plan for me govern my actions and inactions. I do not direct my steps; I am anchored in the God who foreknew me and foreloved me. Jesus gave up his home, his very life, to invite me to dance. Eternity awaits, an eternity in which I will be covered by his mercy and grace and in that, there’s glory.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
The sunset I passed on the drive to the dance was enough. It was more than I deserved. The Son of God is more than enough. The fact that he loved me, called me, saved me, and has a plan that includes eternity for me is so much more than this stumbling, fearful girl merits. But I’ll smile and sing because He is my friend, He forgives, and because that is what he asked when He called me into this glorious dance.