If you have not already seen it, you should take a look at Bruce Springsteen’s YouTube video, “Dancing in the Dark.” It has been viewed over 237 million times and it introduced Courtney Cox to the world almost 10 years before she made her appearance in “Friends.” “Dancing in the Dark” won the 1985 MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance. People love to dance to this song. Seeing the Boss and Courtney Cox dancing together at the end of the video is classic.
But, I loved the song even before I saw the video. One of the things that makes this a great song is it has a built-in tension. The beat and the music sound upbeat, but the words — which are amazing — are anything but. And there is the tension. Bruce and Courtney sure look like they are having a good time while they are dancing, but I can’t image they would be so happy if they really listened to or better yet, lived the lyrics.
“I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face.” “I ain’t getting nowhere.” “I’m just living in a dump like this.” “There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me — the laugh’s on me.” These are not the words of someone who is loving life are they? So, we might ask ourselves, “Did we just catch the Boss on a bad day, or is “Dancing in the Dark” more of a commentary on our culture as a whole?
If you were actually living the life Springsteen describes in this song, you really would want to do all your dancing in the dark. Why would you want the light of day to expose where your really were and remind you of a life where you were going nowhere, and living in a dump? You wouldn’t.
A few years back, the Pew Research Center did a study on American life satisfaction. On a scale of 0 to 10 with ten being completely satisfied and zero being not satisfied at all, the average American’s life satisfaction came in at a dismal 6.7. I can only imagine that today with COVID-19 lurking and all the political strife and economic uncertainty we’re experiencing, that number would be even lower.
There is a lot of “Dancing in the Dark” going on out there. There are a lot of people not just “worrying” about their little world falling apart as the song says — they are living it. Too many lives don’t even register 6.7 on the satisfaction scale. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, for people of faith, it is not that way. According to that same Pew Research Survey cited above, religion was second only to family as the most important source of meaning in the lives of American adults.
If material things ensured the good life, we could not account for the scores of the rich and famous who crash and burn. It turns out there is more to life than just physical, material things. The philosopher had it right when he said, “There is a God-sized hole in every human heart.” There is a part of life that is spiritual that connects us to God.
Sadly, so much in our culture today discounts the spiritual and emphasizes the material. Yet survey after survey shows that people of faith who are active within a community of believers have more life satisfaction than those without faith. The abundant life Jesus offers in John 10 is based on faith. Believers form bonds with God and each other that are real, and that give life meaning.
It turns out the “good life” is not just about having the goods. Neither is it all about feeling good or looking good. The “good” life comes from living for something bigger than ourselves. A good place to start is Jesus’ Great Commandment: Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”
We show our love of God through our worship. We show our love of neighbor through acts of service. The very good news for people of faith is that when our faith is real, God is glorified and people are served. The fact that this leads to a happier, more meaningful life is an added bonus.
Rick Ehrheart is pastor of Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church in Tooele.