As part of my mid-life goal to get fit and healthy, combined with my zeal for some new and exciting adventures, I began attending Zumba classes at a local church down the road several months ago. For those of you unfamiliar with Zumba, it’s a dance-inspired workout where Latin, hip-hop, belly-dance, and other great dance moves (like Hava Nagila) are incorporated into an aerobic routine. It’s great fun, plus it’s a fantastic workout. Two to three times each week, I can be found standing in the back of a church gym filled with 150-200 women. Dressed in black sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt, I focus on our Zumba instructor, Janae – an amazingly fit young woman, dressed in the cutest Zumba attire, without an ounce of fat on her super-athletic body. I keep hoping that (while I’ll never be as young as she is), if I stick with the classes, perhaps I can look at least a tenth as good as she does. One can only hope! A wonderful leader, she is one of the reasons I so enjoy the classes. Her smile is genuine and contagious, she loves to laugh, and even better, she loves the Lord. The joy of the Lord truly radiates from her and even while dancing, you can tell she has a worshipper’s heart. She opens each class with a scripture reading and her closing “cool-down” sessions are done to beautiful worship songs. How great is that? Needless to say, I’m totally hooked!
One of the recommendations to Zumba participants is that they should wear lightweight supportive shoes that will enable them to easily move forward, backward and side-to-side, because Zumba steps will take you all across the floor. It is also suggested that you watch your instructor for cues to every step because Zumba instructors are trained to speak very little; instead, they cue participants with hand and body gestures as well as provide clear demonstrations of steps and combinations. In other words, the workout is basically watch and follow, as the participants mirror and imitate the leader.
Let me just say . . . my experience has proven this to be true on many occasions! This past Monday, as I once again took my eyes off of Janae for a moment, I found myself turning in the opposite direction of everyone else in the room. Fortunately the class is very gracious and non-judgmental (probably because the same thing has happened to many of them at one time or another)! But when it happened to me this week, the Holy Spirit immediately brought two scriptures to my memory: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2) The Lord then went on to say “keep your eyes on me and I will order your steps.” What a great lesson to learn in the midst of a Zumba class!
When I got home that night, I decided to investigate a little bit further what the Lord had said, and I found that the verb imitate and the noun imitator only appear a total of eleven times in the entire New Testament. I also learned that this Greek family of words is the root from which we get our English equivalents mime and mimic. An actor that is proficient in mime entertains us by using only gestures and facial expressions, never speaking a word . . . similarly to the way the Zumba instructor leads a class.
The apostle Paul called on Christians in all the churches to follow him as their role model because he set a good, positive, Christlike example, as he testifies in I Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” The word follow and the word imitate are the same word in the original Greek. We can just as equally well translate this verse: “Imitate my example, as I imitate the example of Christ.”
Jesus was Paul’s “All in all,” as he wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We are not only to imitate Jesus as our role model, but we must also become role models for others. In I Timothy 4:12 Paul charges Timothy: “. . . set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Then in Titus 2:6-7 he compels Titus, “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” Role models set an example for others to imitate.
So my Zumba lesson from this week is this: let’s keep our eyes focused on our teacher, Jesus Christ, so we never “miss a step” . . . and remember, too, that others are also watching us and following our example!
“I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:11-12)
“For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk (and dance) before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:8-9)