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Salvation Looks Like Dancing

A meditation on holiness, cancer, Nazis, and dancing.


Dedicated to Adam. 

By nature, humans move away from one another. In The Great Divorce, hell is a place where you instantly get whatever you want just by imagining it. Therefore, those who have been in hell the longest are thousands of miles away from others because they imagined acres upon acres of uninhabited neighborhoods for themselves.

The word holiness means you are set apart.
You are other than the rest.
You are different in all regards.

God is holy.

Therefore, if God is different from humanity, He moves toward us when we move away. And we are always moving away from one another and from Him, this is the story of humanity from the very beginning of the Bible.

Yet He moves toward us. Because He is holy.

The film Jojo Rabbit is about a boy who is a passionate member of the Hitler Youth in the 1940’s. Early on, he discovers that his mother is harboring a Jewish girl in their home, posing a threat to all three of them. At first, he is both terrified and aggressive toward the girl. He spits vulgar insults about the Jewish people and dehumanizes her in every conceivable way.

As the film progresses, the relationship between the boy and the girl deepens and you see a movement toward liberation; he becomes more liberated from his Nazi ideology and she becomes more free to move around the house: from her cupboard to the bedroom, then to the entire house.

“What would you do if you were free?” asks the boy at one point.

“Dance,” she promptly answers.

Later on, numerous people give their lives to spare the boy and the girl. The boy’s mother loses her life for sheltering the Jew, and after the American occupation of the town, a Nazi general sacrifices himself so the boy may be spared.

In the final scene of the film, she walks outside for the first time in years. Then, there on the sidewalk, they begin to dance.

What does liberation look like?


Dancing despite the fact that your mother and father have been killed by the wicked oppressors; dancing despite the fact others had to die so you can live. Dancing in the face of the fact that suffering will return, but you are free on this sidewalk right now. What do you do when you’re free? You dance.

A few nights ago we gathered in the home of my friend Adam’s parents. 40 of us stood around Adam’s dad, now two years into a battle with cancer, and prayed for him. The tone was somber, as doctors recently told their family the radiation isn’t working.

I once went to a lacrosse game with his family to watch Adam play. From the bleachers his dad made sounds louder than I thought possible from a human being. Now, his hair and faced have thinned and the energetic father I used to know now lay in a recliner, mustering up the energy for each sentence he said.

My parents were there too. As we prayed over Adam’s dad, I managed to hold it together until my dad spoke. He didn’t even say any words of his own, he just began: “Psalm 84, of the sons of Korah…”

Scripture takes on a unique power when you’re standing next to someone who is dying.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

…A place my friend would soon be. A place without this pain and weakness. A place where no radiation therapy is necessary because “The Lord God is their sun.”


Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through barren places,
they make it a place of springs.

I looked at the father of my friend, oxygen tubes in his nose, and pictured him walking through a desert plain, but flowers and brilliant shrubs popped up wherever he went.

Then I pictured him dancing.

Because this is the hope of the Christian: Not that we wither away into the conclusion of our story; our withering away only gives way to new life. And what do you do when you’re given new life? When you’re given liberation?

You dance.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that wherever God is, there is freedom. That means wherever God is, there is dancing. Just as Jojo Rabbit didn’t end with the Jewish girl still locked in the cupboard, neither does our story end on the hospital bed. This means death isn’t the end of the story—dancing is.

So brothers and sisters—come out from your cupboards, rise from your hospital beds.

There is a God who has moved toward us and He wants us to dance.


P.S. Pray for Adam and his family. You can donate to their GoFundMe to help pay for hospital bills.

Update: Adam’s dad passed away this morning, November 21, 2019. I know he’s dancing now and liberated from his pain, suffering, and the weight of this world.

3 comments on “Salvation Looks Like Dancing

  1. Beautiful.

  2. Thank You Ethan for harnessing in this way, God’s love and care for this dear family!

  3. Pingback: On the death of my poetry professor – ethan renoe

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