Our household has been in a bit of a “Dance Mode” phase lately.
I don’t want you to think we all just suddenly break out into dance at random and inopportune moments – though, that does happen. What I mean to say is, our girls spent the first many days of Lent watching and rewatching the episode of “Bluey” called “Dance Mode.”
“Bluey,” of course, is the hit animated kids show on Disney+ featuring a family of Australian dogs muddling through the highs, lows and weirdos of being a kid and raising a family. Every episode guarantees seven minutes of heartwarming delight. It’s as fun for my wife and me as it is for our girls.
But “Dance Mode” struck a particular chord.
The premise is this: Bandit, the dog dad, eats the last of his youngest daughter’s chips at lunch. Bingo — the aforementioned daughter — was in fact not yet done eating her chips and is understandably dismayed at what has transpired. Chilli, the dog mom, is culpable, too: She’d given Bandit the green light to eat said chip.
And from that delightfully mundane, ordinary, highly relatable parenting setup, we get a story.
“How can we make it up to you?” Chilli asks Bingo.
Bluey – our titular hero and the eldest of the two sisters – gives Bingo an idea. Dance Mode.
What’s Dance Mode, you ask? Excellent question. In short, whenever someone yells “Dance Mode,” our penitential parents have to stop whatever they’re doing, wherever they are, and dance. It’s embarrassing, silly and joy-filled.
The episode builds toward a great big – very public – moment of dance when Bandit and Chilli are forced to surrender any notion of shame or awkwardness and just go with the music.
It’s cute. And the fact that the theme song for that particular episode is now available on Spotify definitely contributed to the skyrocketing fame this specific “Bluey” episode now has within our family of four.
But here’s why “Dance Mode” strikes a Lenten chord.
Think back to that inciting incident where a simple misunderstanding leads to hurt feelings – and a desire to right a relationship. In this world of talking dogs, there’s no hurt so small, so ordinary, so seemingly insignificant that an act of contrition isn’t warranted.
And then, what’s the penance? Dance Mode. Humbling? Absolutely. But contagiously joyful? That seems to be the point! After all, there are plenty of other ways to say you’re sorry that don’t spark so much giggling.
Take a moment today as we barrel toward the end of our Lenten journey: Have you been mindful of those small, easily missed ways in which you’ve hurt others – God, your neighbors, perhaps even yourself? Have you given that offense the due time it deserves? Or, have you shrugged it off, assuming it wasn’t big enough, bad enough, egregious enough to warrant your serious attention?
Too often during Lent, we focus on the big stuff; we make grand gestures of repentance and sacrifice. We lock into our fasting or our almsgiving, becoming singularly focused on that piece of chocolate we won’t be eating or that charitable cause we will be contributing to.
But do we miss the little things? The hurt feelings and the hurtful glances? Do we take the time to mend those wounds?
Because at the end of the day, I think our God who delights in the silly and the small and the humble desires that we, too, not skip these all-important spiritual virtues.
The thing about Dance Mode is that it is an act of contrition: one that is necessary, infused with equal parts humility and joy. That humble joy brings our heroes back together, knitting relationships threaded with smiles ever more tightly.
Can we say as much about our own acts of penance? And what might our God of delight have to say?
Eric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, U.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian.