Stewardship of Life

‘The Divine Dance of Avoidance’

Posted in It's Personal by Robert Blezard on February 27, 2010

What life dream have you put off for a more convenient day?

As a girl, Elizabeth George had always dreamed of writing, but instead she became an English teacher. Intending to write during the long summer breaks, she found herself too anxious about writing to start, and she frittered away summer after summer. Until June 1983, when she had had enough.

She recalls, “I asked myself whether, on my deathbed, I wanted to sigh and say, ‘I could have written a novel’ or ‘I wrote a novel.’ “

She got to work! Several summers later, Elizabeth George’s third manuscript sold! Bantam Books published A Great Deliverance, a mystery novel centered on a British detective named Thomas Lynley. Since then, her Inspector Lynley mystery series has sold millions of books.

Looking back on those years before 1983, Elizabeth George says she had been doing the “Divine Dance of Avoidance.”

Humanity knows the steps of the “Divine Dance of Avoidance;” knows them all too well. How many of us have dreams of what we’d like to do, what we might do, what we could be, what we could achieve, if only …?

Working towards our dreams takes courage, work, sacrifice, focus and long-term commitment. Meanwhile, we’re beset by self-doubt and fear, and distracted by a million attractive alternatives. We hesitate, and the Dance of Avoidance lures us away.

I spent years doing the Dance of Avoidance, and I know the seductive narcotic of its deceptions: What’s the rush? You have plenty of time. You’ll do it when you’re ready! You have important things to accomplish first. You’re not wasting time — you’re preparing. You’ll do it someday … when you aren’t so busy … when you have time … after you graduate … after you retire … after you get married … after you get divorced … when he kids are born … when the kids go off to college … anytime but NOW!

Drawn to a spiritual life, I sensed a calling to ministry even as a boy. After college in 1981, though, I joined the Dance and followed a practical path as a newspaper reporter. But the calling gnawed at me. Eight years later, in 1989, I escaped the dance floor and plunged into seminary. Graduating with a shiny Master of Divinity degree in 1993, I was afraid of the hard life of a pastor, and the Dance of Avoidance enticed me onto an easier, safer, familiar path: I became a journalist for Jesus in the church press.

Ten years later, in 2003, in a moment of clarity and regret, it was time to quit the Dance once and for all. I put my feet on the path to ministry and vowed to look neither left nor right until I was done. After more seminary classes, psychological tests, chaplaincy training, a supervised pastoral internship and rigorous examination, I was ready. Bishop Carol Hendrix ordained me as a Lutheran pastor on January 29, 2006 – twenty five years after graduating from college and thirteen years after graduating from seminary. I was 47 years young, finally where I needed to be all along.

How have you been lured into the Divine Dance of Avoidance? How did you break free? What have you learned? Or, if you are still dancing, what do you need?

*Thanks to Garrison Keillor’s daily report, The Writer’s Almanac, for telling Elizabeth George’s story on its Feb. 26 show.

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