As usual when I prepare to write the devotional, I look up the passage in a variety of different bibles. For this passage, I really felt drawn to the interpretation contained in “The Message” Bible by Eugene Peterson. One line in particular stands out to me – “…please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.”
Reading this version, a number of images jump into my head. When I think of dogged religious plod, I see someone who is slumped over, totally fatigued, with no energy. As a parent, if I saw one of my kids looking like that, I would be very concerned. I would take him to the doctor and want to get to the bottom of what is making him like this, thinking that it must be physical and not necessarily emotional or spiritual. Whatever it is, I would want to fix it. Get some medicine or whatever it would take to get my child back to good health.
I imagine when God sees us this way He would react very much the same, although since he knows our heart, he can tell the difference between physical fatigue and spiritual depletion. The difference is that he does not judge us. Just as Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is a gentle and loving reminder of how to live a life through Christ, God is always present, with gentle loving nudges and prods.
My image of a living, spirited dance is so full of energy and light. I see the most beautiful ballet dancer, filled with grace beyond explanation. I want to be that dancer. I want to be filled with the light and grace of God, and I know that He wants me to have that life as well. The only barricades to living life in a spirited dance are those that we put up – both consciously and unconsciously. I think Paul is reminding us all to be aware of those barricades and to tear them down by living the life God wants us to live.