2005 header for issue 32


The Divine Embrace.

By Ken Gire. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2003, 232 pp.

 

Review by Mr Song Cheng Hock.

 

The book is discomfiting to read. The principal theme of dancing with the Lord is  contentious for men, who are  accustomed to visualize their relationship with Christ using masculine images as that of a soldier, athlete, farmer or builder (p. 12) but, not as a dance partner! One may argue, "It is just a metaphor!" A metaphor's literary boundary is porous enough to allow and accommodate paradoxical ideas. A metaphor, however, can be dangerous and adeptly persuasive. Eugene Peterson warns that the metaphor's intended image can "keep us from being spectators of language by forcing us to be participants in it" (The Unnecessary Pastor, pp. 70-71).

Ken Gire is a competent wordsmith. His main aim in using the dance metaphor is to draw a response from his readers. With great dexterity, he weaves the metaphor in between the pages in each chapter to describe a particular aspect of the dance, for example, the prelude to the dance, the intimacy of the dance, the joy of the dance and so forth.  The reader who cursorily thumbs through the pages to get a gist of the book would probably find the experience contrived and fruitless. But, as the reader delves deeper into the book, he will discover that those staccato ascriptions are essential parts of a larger symphonic movement, culminating in an invitation to dance.

The reader is urged to respond to that invitation. Skill is not the criterion. The dance is not about technique. It is about intimacy with the lead Dancer. It is The Divine Embrace. The lead Dancer will set the pace and tempo. All that is needed is our willingness to take that first step. The waltz will naturally and spontaneously follow. But, as dance partners, we must adhere to this sequence: "The Christian life is about us following Christ's lead, not about him following us. He does not ask us to write the notes to the music or choreograph the steps of the dance. He asks us merely to take his hand and follow him" (p. 89). 

Gire's catalytic inspiration for the book comes from an unexpected source - Johann Straiuss II's "Emperor's Waltz." On hearing the music for the first time, he was inexplicably moved,

I thought of my response to it, and it seemed similar to how the disciples must have reacted when they first realised who Jesus was. . . . Some miraculous moment opens our eyes, the way it did with the disciples, and we ask ourselves, as they asked themselves, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'(p. 5).

That was his spiritual awakening. The lead Dancer is the Emperor himself, our Lord!  He leads, we follow. We falter, he holds, "And that is precisely how we learn - as we go. We learn to dance by dancing" (p. 103).

Reading a book on spirituality can be a satisfying as well as an onerous task. Satisfying because it can be inspirational and yet onerous because it is subjective. How one views the book is contingent upon one's theological framework and even temperament. For example, a conservative would probably view Gire's work as overly sentimental since it is couched in dramatic and emotive language. On the other hand, a person with a more melancholic disposition may enjoy the melodic mood of the book.

Objectivity must prevail. However, the line between objectivity and cynicism or even evangelical snobbery can be disturbingly thin. Perhaps, Gire's own seminary experience is a good illustration. In his first year, a respectable professor gave him an improbable advice, "Stay away from the third- and fourth-year students."  Why?  "Because we were told, they were critical and bitter, and being around them would destroy our passion."  His sobering point is that a person could be so self-absorbed in his own intellectual (unintelligible?) world that any form of subjective devotion would be rejected as spurious.

The author may be anticipating negative responses from readers. His anticipation may have led him to pray, "Dear Jesus, I ask one thing for the readers of this book, that they love you more when they finally put it down than they did when they first picked it up" (vii).

The prayer reveals two things about the author.  He has deep desire for his readers to know the Lord.  Secondly, the book has the substance and spirit to arouse their passion for the Lord. All he asks for is the reader's willingness to take the first step.

Did he achieve his goal? The invitation to dance may be discomfiting but the reader cannot choose to vacillate between options. The Divine Embrace is compelling enough to extract a response from even the most indecisive reader. That is the nature of the dance metaphor.

  

CHAPEL NOTES

The following is a summary of the chapel message on November 2, 2005. The Speaker, Ms Kwan Poh San, is with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

I Cor. 12:5,9:  "I will not boast about myself except about my weaknesses...boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me."

As we serve the Lord on the mission field, we become increasingly aware of our own weaknesses. From our constant struggle with our weaknesses, we can see through the years how the Lord would use our weaknesses to show forth his love and grace, and his power. And the main area of our life where our weaknesses show up is in relationships with colleagues and with the people we are sent to minister to. Many workers on the field leave their place of work mainly from the inability to handle relationships with people. I have found that to be true, as my own experiences show that that is one of the hardest part of life. However, God also gives grace and help to those who acknowledge those weaknesses, and they are willing to work with his help to overcome them.

Our Lord also teaches us and helps us to understand cultures and peoples to work with them to encourage them, and sometimes our small efforts are appreciated and it does encourage us when it is related how we have helped someone along the way to improvements in their relating to others, and to their own work.

In our times of tiredness and exhaustion from overwork and stress, he opens new avenues for us to express ourselves to relieve that tension within us. In my case the Holy Spirit gave me words for verses and poems. That has opened up a creative avenue for me to express myself, and to praise the Lord in the process.

Our Lord is ever willing to bend down to those who trust fully in Him, and he will work through our weaknesses.

 

Chapel Speaker  on 16 November will be Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

 

NEWS BITS

  1. Rev Adrian van Leen was in town last week and he dropped by at BGST on Friday, 4 November.

  2. Dr Ng Peh Cheng will be in Bangkok (Nov. 11-20) to visit 2 theological education institutions with the ATA Visiting Evaluation Team.

  3. BGST Lunchtime Talks. All are welcome.

    • Mr Song Cheng Hock will be speaking on the topic ‘Understanding Adolescents’ this Friday, 11 November, 12.45-1.30pm.

    • Rev John Ting, Dean of Discipleship Training Centre, will give two talks on ‘Marriage & Family’ :

  • 18 November - ‘Wives submit, Husbands love’

  • 25 November - ‘Marriage Growth: 6 Diagrams’

  1. Announcement: Convocation 2006 
    The 15th Annual Convocation and Thanksgiving service of BGST will be held on Saturday 14th January 2006. If you are intending to graduate at the Convocation in January, or if you think it is possible that you will be graduating, please contact the Registrar as soon as possible. He would be glad to hear from you. Please either send him an email (at philipbgst@yahoo.com.sg) or submit an Application to Graduate (forms available from Admin).

  2. Bible Lands Study Tour: The Splendor of Turkey, Israel & Jordan. The first pre-tour briefing took place last Sat, 5 November. The final briefing will be on 19 November, 7-9pm, at 4 Bishan St 13, Room 308 (3rd floor, entry via #3-01).

A Blessed Birthday to…

 

Mr Lee Kok Wah  14/11

Ms Chrisa Goh  14/11

Mr Tan Poh Tee  16/11

Mr Richard Yew  16/11

Ms Cherine Tan  17/11

Mr Peter Yeo  17/11

Mr Roland Yip  20/11

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