Step Up, and applaud.

Last night I watched “Step Up Revolution.”

Yes, I did. Really.

The Step Up film franchise (this was the 4th and latest installment) will never – ever – win awards. The dialogue and the acting are… sub-par (and that’s kind). Consider these juicy quotes from “Step Up Revolution” –

Emily: “I wish I could just break the rules.”
Sean: “Then break the rules.”

Emily: “You dance?”
Sean: “Don’t you know how this works? I hold a drink in my hand, you dance around me, make me look good…”

You know a film’s script has … um, problems… when a Google search for “memorable quotes from Step Up Revolution” turns up those two gems.

Ok, so the actors deliver their lines with a painful lack of skill at times. So the script feels like it was recycled from a grade 6 drama class. So the plot has holes the size of Oklahoma. Clearly.

But the dancing… Mm yes, the dancing.

That is cool. Very cool.

Which brings me to the reason I’ve included “Step Up Revolution” in a blog entry…

“Aha!” moments often come to us in unpredictable forms, and as I watched the movie last night, I had one such moment. In the end, my revelation had little to do with the actual substance of the film (which only served as a spark for the thought) and so much more to do with life – real life. My life.

God can speak to us in the most curious ways. My revelation occurred as follows:

The flash mob dance scenes in the film are eye-popping. So much talent is on display in each sequence that I felt the need to rewind and re-watch more than a few times. If you enjoy dancing (and can laugh your way through mechanical acting and dialogue), this movie will indeed entertain you. But beyond entertainment, I found myself reminiscing as I watched the film. I remembered a time in my life when such a movie would have made me want nothing so much as to dance like that... to be that talented… to be that good at something so cool and riveting and impressive. In that season of my life – a long season actually – my appreciation of the dancers in the film would have been mingled with a streak of envy, with a disappointed reflection on my own inferiority, with a desire for that kind of impressive and noteworthy talent. Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps not.

But as I reflected on that portion of my life – the years between 12 and 22 – I felt something fresh and strong and free enfold me. I watched the dance sequences in the film and a delight grew in me – I was having a moment with God right in the middle of Step Up Revolution.

It dawned on me that receiving the applause – in the long run – is not nearly so beautiful nor enjoyable nor delightfully satisfying as giving the applause. What I mean is that as a human being, I was fundamentally made to lose myself in the glorious-ness of something bigger than me, greater than me, something outside of me. There have been a few moments in my life when I’ve been widely noticed or admired or praised. But always at the back end of those moments – or at the corner of them – the page curls up to reveal the actual scene behind the thin veneer of  self-exaltation and self-importance; and that actual scene is the queasy, center-of-the-heart awareness that things are dangerously off-kilter with me at the center, perhaps off-kilter enough to fly into chaos at any moment and wreck the universe of my existence. Human praise in that sense is perilous. I was not formed to receive highest praise. I was formed to give it.

Everything inside of me is wired to experience ultimate delight through worshiping rather than being worshiped.

This liberating realization began to wash over my mind, and I understood afresh that the most excellent and winsome trait in a human being is self-forgetful adoration of that which is ultimately beautiful – God Himself.

In my finest moments of success – my greatest triumphs and my most soaring achievements – I have never failed to feel the inevitable post-success let-down that leaves me withered and fatigued in spirit. The praise is never loud nor long enough to satisfy me. The compliments are never profuse nor sincere enough to stockpile. The attention always dissipates before my heart is remotely satisfied. In the center of the very most and best that that this world has to offer me, I find myself invariably turning my gaze, with a soul-deep ache, towards the horizon – the burning line of sea and sky that represents everything beyond and outside of my tired sphere of self-obsession. This world’s finest moments of fame and glory ultimately only hollow me out with desire for blissful, self-forgetful adoration of Christ. It is the perfect definition of anticlimax – my yearning for all the world has to offer soars to incalculable heights the more I inch towards it, step towards it, run towards it, then sprint towards it. But the moment I catch my breath in its center, it is only a hamster’s wheel to nowhere, and round and round I run. Empty. Exhausted.

But the horizon, ah – it whispers, soft and faint and light. And in turning from myself to Him, I find myself.

Only in the moments when I’m caught up in the tidal wave of His worthiness do my shackles fall completely, leaving me to run and jump and dance and laugh and smile and sprint… all the things I’m happiest doing.

I’ll say it again: receiving the applause – in the long run – is not nearly so beautiful nor enjoyable nor delightfully satisfying as giving the applause.

So I watched the rest of “Step Up Revolution” and thoroughly enjoyed the talent of its dancers. But more importantly, I felt another layer of self-obsession gently carved away by the Father. There’s much more carving yet to do – I’ve still got so much me in me – but during a poorly acted dance film I reveled in the glory that on this day there is more of Him and less of me than ever before.

I’m learning how to lift my eyes to that horizon.

I’m learning how to applaud.

And I can thank “Step Up Revolution” for giving me something to clap about…. sort of.



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