Just when I thought I’d run out of ways to sacrifice my dignity in the name of parenthood, my daughters got a game called Just Dance Kids for their Nintendo Wii. This has opened up a whole new world of humiliation.
I figured since it had the word “kids” on the cover it couldn’t be that hard. Besides, I was raised on Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. How tough could it be?
In case you haven’t seen any of the Just Dance games, the way they work is simple. The games come loaded with high-energy pop songs, which are led by double-jointed contortionists hopped up on Red Bull.
The goal is to try to mimic the dancers’ moves as close as you can without having a heart attack, punching the player next to you or slinging your game controller through a window. This is easy enough when you’re in elementary school but not so much when you’re over forty.
I started out playing against my wife, who absolutely slaughtered me. Then my eight-year-old took me down hard and fast. And my five-year-old? Blew me out of the water.
“Wow, she got twice the points you did,” my wife said. “It wasn’t even close.” I really appreciated the color commentary.
I figured the whole thing was beginner’s luck, though, so I kept at it. However, dozens of games later, I was still getting smoked. Eventually I did what any mature person would do. I jumped on the Internet to figure out how I could cheat.
No luck. The consensus online was that you either had to do the moves to the beat or you’d lose. No exceptions. No short-cuts. No mercy.
But seriously, was I really that bad? I was killing everyone at Mario Kart. Why was this thing so hard? Maybe I was holding the controller wrong. Or was I standing too far from the Wii? Or what if I wore my lucky shoes?
Nothing helped. I was too slow, too uncoordinated and just too old. I couldn’t get it right.
Then I had an idea, one, last, desperate idea.
The song we played the most had two different dancers on it, and you had to choose which one to follow. I’d been following the one dancer while my wife and daughters always followed the other one.
Could the other dancer have easier moves? There was only one way to find out. This last ditch effort was the only hope I had left.
And guess what? I won! I finally won!
It was like that the end of the movie Miracle when the American hockey team beat the Russians. Everyone started crying, hugging each other and jumping up and down. Well, maybe that was just me.
I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she said, “Does this mean I can finally go to bed?”
“Yes, honey,” I said. “It sure does.”
I think we all learned some valuable lessons that day.
First, losing at video games makes me a little crazy. Second, if you’re my child, I will not let you stop playing until I win. And third, if you follow the wrong dancer, you may end making things much harder on yourself than you need to.
If I’d kept copying the wrong dancer, I’d still be on a losing streak. It was only when I chose a better example that I was finally able to win.
We’re all following someone’s example in our lives. We look at other people who seem to have the life we want and try to mimic their moves. Whether we’re trying to follow in the footsteps of successful people we admire or trying to look like the skinny celebrities we see on the cover of magazines, we may be following examples that set us up to fail.
Trying to be rich enough, smart enough, attractive enough or spiritual enough can leave us discouraged and exhausted. If that’s how you feel, consider that it may be time to follow a different dancer.
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus invited a group of stressed out, worn out people to follow him.
He said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).
In other words, following Jesus means living by grace. It means living out of the unconditional love God has for you. It’s not about performing or keeping up. It’s not about making all the right moves. It’s about being loved no matter how many mistakes you make.
So if you’re tired of trying to live up to other people’s standards, if you’re feel like you’re playing a losing game, maybe it’s time to follow a new dancer, one who doesn’t keep score but sets you free to just dance and to enjoy the life you were made to live.