Letter from the Editor: How swing dancing taught me to trust Jesus

Maggie Pawsey


Maggie PawseySwing dancing is the most awkwardly Franny thing you can do, people will say. 

And I love it. 

If you’ve never danced with someone who knows what he’s doing, you need to try it. Nothing comes close to the feeling of being spun, dipped and thrown into the air at unexpected times. Sounds fun, right? 

Now, to make it metaphorical: If you’ve never danced with a God who knows what he’s doing, you need to try it. We all know the phrase “Jesus, I trust in you,” but what does trust look like? One way I came to understand trust was by being spun, dipped and thrown into the air  and realizing my divine dance partner would catch me every time. 

Let’s rewind to the night I learned to swing dance. In my Austria semester, one of the guys was teaching an impromptu class for anyone who wanted to learn, so I convinced a bunch of my friends to go with me. We showed up, and there were probably 20 women … to about five men. 

So, I decided to learn the guy’s steps and some basic moves so that I could dance with each of my friends. We had a blast together instead of waiting around for a guy to ask us.  

As you may know, the guy’s job is to lead: to spin the girl and decide what moves the couple will do next. I liked dancing the guy’s role because, let’s be real, I like to be in charge. 

And this was how my relationship with Jesus was going  I’ve got this! I can handle life on my own — no unexpected twists or turns, please and thank you. 

But I’m not as good as I think I am at leading in dance, or in life. And Jesus has a sense of humor about teaching me to trust him. 

At another swing dancing night, I made the mistake (just kidding) of agreeing to dance with one of the guys. We were slowly becoming friends, and he was a good dancer. I stumbled on the girl’s part for a while, having to relearn how to step and how to be led instead of doing the leading. 

Before I realized what was happening, he had spun me, put his hands on my hips, and told me to jump so he could throw me in the air. I protested  I’m heavier than other women here! What if you drop me and I get hurt! What if I do something wrong and I look like an idiot! 

He laughed and told me, “Maggie, you have to trust me. It’s gonna be fine.” 

I swallowed my pride (and insecurities) and jumped. To my surprise, the brief moment of flight was actually fun.  

The rest of the night, he and a few other guys taught me more lifts, in which they tossed me in the air, swung me from hip to hip and spun me upside down. Talk about an exercise in trust. 

And that’s exactly what I had to learn to do in my relationship with Jesus  give up control and give up my insecurities.  

I came to realize that when I dance with Jesus or simply go through life with him by my side, I cannot step the guy’s part. That is not my role, especially as a woman, as hard as that is for me to accept. I have to learn to be led, let Jesus spin me first and then trust that he will catch me when he decides it’s time to throw me in the air. 

Letting someone else lead me is humbling. But in Austria, Jesus kept showing me that I can cling to my need for control or I can let him lead and we’ll actually get somewhere.  

Through travels, planning for the future and building relationships, I also had to trust him with my fears. What if I do something wrong and I look like an idiot? Jesus, what if you throw me but don’t catch me?  

But of course, he knows how to lead because he has a plan that’s better than anything I could come up with! Jesus got me on the right trains, put me exactly where I needed to be for a summer job and sent me beautiful friends. I could only receive these gifts when I realized he was leading me, not the other way around. 

So, want to practice trusting Jesus? Go learn how to swing dance! But more importantly, take time to know the perfect dance partner. 

A good “dance” to learn with Jesus is the Novena of Surrender to the Divine Will. In one line, the novena summarizes everything I’ve learned: “O my Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”