I stood there listening to the drumming beat of the tango. Jen’s hand kept steady pressure pushing against my shoulder as I kept steady pressure pulling against hers. With our frame tight, I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet and stepped forward.

The tango is an emboldening and flirtatious dance of cat and mouse. The man steps in towards his partner, pursuing her as she mirrors his steps away. The strength of the drumbeat, the Latin flair, and the directness of the movements evoke a feeling of boldness and confidence.

Three long strides forward and a quick side-step together, we stalked around the floor.

My last relationship left me timid and retreating. When I started dancing, I noticed that I was trying to lean away from my instructor Jen. This put my weight on my heels, making the dance less engaging, my movements less smooth, and making it difficult to move around the floor. After a bit of reflection, I could see that I was “shrinking away” from being so close to someone.

When had I grown so timid? Why did I need so much space to feel comfortable?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the extra space I achieved by leaning away wasn’t bringing me comfort at all. Things felt more awkward and forced, and I had to think about what I was doing more than feel it.

So I tried leaning in, shifting my weight forward, and stepping into the patterns. It felt smooth and natural. It felt good. Jen’s face lit up as she caught the difference immediately and complimented me. As I trusted her to follow, I boldly took a step forward, and she increased the slight pressure on my shoulder and followed step by step.

When it came time for a group class, and I was dancing with another student, I went to step forward as I had been doing with Jen, and I physically stuttered. My steps faltered, grew smaller, and I leaned back slightly.

What had changed?

I couldn’t feel the other student’s pressure pushing against my shoulder.

Let me explain. To lead in dancing, the lead provides pressure on the shoulder blade of his partner while his partner pushes lightly into his shoulder. This “frame” pressure works like a bar holding the pair together and telling the lady where the lead is trying to go.

Imagine holding your hand in the air and facing someone else’s hand. Your task is to follow the movement of the other person’s hand exactly. If you hold your hands even a half inch apart, you will always be slightly behind the other person’s movements. However, if you push your hands together when one moves, it moves the other.

That is how the lead in a pair moves his partner across the dance floor. The tension of the push-pull pressure provides the connection for the pair to move confidently and stay together.

The older I get, the more I see this pattern repeated throughout life. I have always shrunk away from conflict and sought peace. Yet, when someone is bold enough to lead by stepping into the tension, we may stumble from time to time, but there is comfort and confidence in knowing that we are connected and where we are going.

Similarly, life is full of tension. We can pull away and run from those difficult situations, or we can lean in, pulling life towards us as tensions of stress, anxiety, fear, anger, pain, and loss push against us. The shrinking away can feel safer, but often it leaves us unsure, awkwardly overthinking our steps through life. On the other hand, we can step into the tension and trust.

You might be surprised by how much comfort, confidence, and ease comes with leaning into the tensions in life. It may never be comfortable, but it is vastly comforting to engage in the dance of our life with God as he prepares and secures every step.

As the music came to a close, Jen challenged me to take longer strides and really step into the dance. I think that is a great metaphor for my goals in life right now, to take longer strides into life, to lean into the tension, and allow myself to enjoy the dance.



  1. Yes. This. Something I’m presently learning…more the “dance” with God and leaning into the tensions of life rather than the actual tango. Lol. Thank you.


    1. When I started dance I didn’t expect to see so many metaphors in the experience. I have loved it though.

      Liked by 1 person

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