You might have missed it, but it happened at the Forty-Third Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.
Garth Brooks, one of this year’s honorees, was looking on intently as Kelly Clarkson sang “The Dance.” If you’re not a fan of country music, you might not know that “The Dance” is Garth Brooks’ song, released in 1989 and a chart-topper in 1990.
Kelly and Garth are close friends, having encouraged each other through a number of the storms of life. As it turns out, this particular song helped Kelly make it through one of the toughest seasons in her life, and it inspired one of her own albums. Apparently, she was thrilled to be asked to perform it in honor of her faithful friend … “Oh, our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”
The audience grew pin-drop quiet as Garth Brooks was visibly moved to tears.
There’s something inherently human about seeking to avoid pain. Believe me, when I go to the doctor’s office, I’ll choose the oral medication over the shot every time. I don’t do pain well.
And there are the much more painful pains. The pains of a broken heart. The pains of a shattered dream. The pains with a sting worse than death. That’s why all of us can relate to those simple song lyrics. We know what it’s like to be hurt. We know what it’s like to be disappointed. We know what it’s like to be betrayed. And we know what it’s like to do everything in our power not to be hurt again. But the point of the song is that real love is worth the risk.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes: “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus wept because Jesus loved, and His love cost Him everything. Let that sink in! The Sovereign of the universe so identified with the painful plight of humankind that He entered into our grief to the nth degree. So you and I must not imagine for one second that it will cost us nothing to love as we’ve been loved. We have to remember in whose footsteps we’re following, and that we’re walking the way of the Cross. The way of love can be a painful way – a way of suffering.
I believe that Garth Brooks cried because God has blessed him with a warm and authentically human spirit. That gift envelopes his artistry, and so it’s no surprise that Brooks has expanded the profile of the country genre perhaps more than any other singer-songwriter in the world. Looking back over the course of his life and his successful career, I’ll quote directly from Mr. Brooks: “The hope is to have contributed to humanity like my heroes have, to inspire us to be the most we can be as individuals, global citizens, and a part of human history. But most of all, to simply laugh, cry, love, and dream through music … I have been blessed to do just that.”
“Vocation” comes from the Latin for “calling.” So, dear friends, what God has given you to do, do it with all your heart! Do it for an audience of One! Do it for the glory of God! Don’t miss your moment.
Your mission will cost you if it is our Lord’s mission. You can count on that. Like Brooks, you will shed some tears along the way. Not only the tears of suffering but also the tears of recognizing the frailty of your humanity … recognizing the painful journey that you’ve shared with another person … recognizing the painful task to which you’ve been commissioned by God … or simply acknowledging the tenderness of your own heart. But would you really want it any other way?
So don’t miss the dance. It will hurt, sometimes, when you dance for Jesus. But please don’t miss the dance.