Dust swirled through the air as the sun was setting, tucking itself beneath the black hills near Rapid City, South Dakota. We must have looked clueless as all of the men circled around the women who circled around the children, all dancing to the beat of a drum. The high pitched moans of the Lakota drummers were ringing through the smiles and laughter of us all as we clumsily ran into each other. We were united, all together in one Spirit.
It was a celebration.
I shed tears that night. Knowing the filthy history between our tribes, and feeling guilty about the way our brothers and sisters were treated. It was difficult to keep my head up. But those feelings were overshadowed by the kindness of these people, the Lakota, who welcomed a bunch of strangers into one of their most sacred traditions.
It was a Pow Wow.
As the dust shrank it’s way back to the ground after our group dance, the real dancers were called to the center and we all watched in awe of pure beauty. The dancers wore colorful suits with tassels and beads. One kid had a homemade outfit made of ripped bedsheets and shirts. They were spinning and jumping and ducking and looking. I may not know much about dance, but I know when something is so unmistakably pure that it surely came strait from the heart.
It was an invitation.
A dance like that only comes from grace. It comes from lowering oneself and recognizing that we are all equal. We are all human. We all mess up. We all need grace. And that’s exactly what I felt that night. Overpowering grace. It would have been very easy for this group of Lakotas to shun our group for the tragedies that have happened in the past. But they didn’t. Instead, they invited us to dance. And we gladly accepted.
They taught us their battle cries. They singled out two of our girls and had them dance for everyone, giving them a shawl to wear as they spun around and around. They are easily some of the most amazingly gracious people that I have met. I am thankful to have spent a week with sixty new friends in South Dakota.
Together we revamped three playgrounds for the Lakota children and repainted classrooms. We worked on a house that needed more than a little bit of love. We spent time dawning it with new siding and a paint job, fixing doors, steps, and playing with the dog. It was a wonderfully productive week, full of captivating history and new connections.
Moving forward, I pray that we can all learn from the Lakota. There have been times in my life when I have been on the receiving end of a blow that I didn’t deserve. I have been hurt many times and I haven’t always been the man that I am called to be. Forgiveness is hard. Last night we asked the question, “What are you taking home?” One young lady made a stunning observation. She said, “Being a Christian is hard.” And she’s right, sometimes it is.
Jesus does something that changes us forever. He calls us out of darkness into light. There are little things that we would love to keep hidden away in the darkness. We want to be Christian, but those little pieces of us want to stay hidden away, because they are shameful, and easier to keep locked up. Forgiveness is hard because we have to unlock that part of us that wants to hold on to hurt, and instead of acting on it in the way we want to, we are forced to lay it down, which exposes us. It leaves us open. True healing can only happen in these moments when we lie split open and let grace bleed it’s way out of us. It’s the only way.
So the next time I reach for my sword, I will grab a hand instead. I’ll look my adversary in the eye and kindly ask them to dance.