Uniform 09.27.2015: Dancing in the Silence


Acts 7:2-4, 8-10, 17, 33-34, 45-47, 53

At a Baptist Student Union meeting in college, I heard a charming story about a dancer who was on stage, in the middle of a performance, when her music stopped. If you’ve ever stood in front of a crowd for any reason, you can imagine how she felt: heart pounding, stomach clenching, face flushing. What now? In the story, this girl never paused. She couldn’t hear the music, so she danced to the memory of it. Hours of practice and memorization allowed her body to keep moving. She continued to go through the motions. And when the music came back on, she was ready for it because she had trusted in its steadiness all along.

Of course, this story applies to the life of a Christ follower. When I heard it at BSU in my late teens, I thought it was beautiful. But I did wonder how true it would be during the worst times of life. Heartbreak. Loss. Sickness. Uncertainty. As I write, I am on the other side of one of the worst experiences I have ever endured. After about ten years of marriage, my husband and I forgot how to communicate. I put the kids first. He put work first. We assumed things about each other. We built a wall between us. We made devastating choices. As we approached our fourteenth anniversary, we decided that divorce was our only option.

In the long, agonizing months that led to our decision—and in the difficult counseling and mediation sessions that followed as we settled all the details—I lay in bed alone every night in a desperate cry to a God I could not hear. The music had stopped for me, and there were several moments when I thought there was no way I could keep moving forward as if it were still playing. Even then, though, I had to remind myself of God’s faithfulness in the past—both in my life and in the lives of friends and family.

And amazingly, hope held fast. God spoke to me through family, friends, my children, the outdoors, church, writing, music, and many other ways big and small.

In our lesson text, Stephen is speaking to God’s people. They either can’t hear the music or refuse to listen to it. He reminds them of their story that spans the centuries, naming God’s faithful acts one by one. He ends with an implied call to action on their part: keep the law! Do what you need to do as God’s people.

If you read further, you find that when he finished his sermon on God’s merciful, powerful acts and convicted the people of their wrongs, Stephen had to live out his faith in a big way. He stood before angry people whose hands were full of rocks, and maybe he couldn’t hear the music of God above their shouts and sneers. But Scripture is clear that Stephen’s faith allowed him to see and trust God in the last painful moments of his life. He died with forgiveness on his lips (Acts 7:60).

The story of my family involves a better miracle than I dared to hope for: John and I were remarried to each other in August and are building a stronger relationship—more intentional, attentive, honest, forbearing, forgiving, and hopeful. I know that many stories of broken families don’t turn out this way. There was never a guarantee that mine would. But I did have one solid guarantee: that the God who had walked with me in the past would continue to walk with me in the present and into the future, whatever it would bring.

God’s music is always playing, and God gives us the ability to keep dancing even when life’s struggles block the sound. When we remember what God has already done for us, we can have faith that God will continue to be with us.


1. Has a trusted source of support ever failed you (you forgot memorized lines, you stumbled over a music note while singing or playing, the GPS quit in the middle of a busy city, etc.)? If so, how did you feel and what did you do next?
2. How can memories of the way we handled a crisis in the past help us through present difficulties?
3. When was the last time you felt that God couldn’t hear you or you couldn’t hear God? What was that like, and what did you do?
4. Why do you think Stephen spoke at such length on the things God had done for the people over the years?
5. How can remembering God’s presence in the past help us move through a current trial where God seems absent?

Reference Shelf

Though vv. 45-46 are terse, they leave the impression that during the period extending from Joshua through David, worship in the land was according to God’s will. The lack of any comments about the people rejecting Joshua or David implies that Israel followed the God-sent leaders during this period. Regardless of how one responds to this reading, it remains true that as the people were employing the tent provided by Moses, God was throwing out the nations before them (v. 45). These nations were primarily a threat because they tempted Israel to worship God falsely (cf. Deut 7:1-6). Things were going well. Even David, who is described as finding favor (charis), wants to continue the tradition of this “tent” (skene) by planning to build, not a “house” (oikos) for God, but a tent-like habitation (skenoma).

Stephen is offering a certain “spin” on the story of David’s inquiry in 2 Samuel 7:1-9 to build a place to hold the ark. Review of the Old Testament story clearly implies that David, who seemed to feel it inappropriate that he lived in a “house” while God lived in a “tent,” wanted to build God something other than a “tent.”
Nonetheless, the story of 2 Samuel 7:5-6 says quite clearly that David was not to build a “house” for God and goes on to predict that David’s descendant would be the one to build this house (2 Sam 7:13). Stephen picks up on this fact, noting in v. 47 that Solomon did build a “house” for God. But while Jewish tradition, and, indeed, the narrative of 1 Kings, interprets this act of Solomon quite positively, Stephen’s statement of v. 48, backed up with words from Isaiah 66:1-2 in vv. 49-50, is difficult to read positively.

J. Bradley Chance, Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007) 117–118.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters (ages 10 and 8), and watching television shows on Netflix. Her goal for 2015 is to tackle the bass clef on the piano.


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