Since my daughter could walk, she has danced. I can remember taking Ella to special events at church during her preschool years. As soon as the music began, she would literally dance in the aisles. Being part of a Southern Baptist Church, albeit more progressive than most, this was definitely out of the ordinary. Incredibly, even at the tender age of three, we would watch as she anticipated tempo changes and would alter her moves at the precise moments the beats shifted. Even more amazing than this was the complete joy on her little face when she danced. She just couldn’t help herself. It was obvious God had given her a gift. We knew without a doubt, God created her very soul to dance.
It didn’t take much consideration to know ballet lessons would be part of Ella’s weekly schedule. This year marks her sixth year of ballet. What you may not know about my Ella is she can be a pretty shy little girl. But what you also may not know is she absolutely loves to perform. She lights up on stage for an audience. As last year’s performance approached, she became more and more excited. She was to be a part of a real ballet, not just a recital of dances. Costumes arrived and she lit up. Every week during class, she and all of her friends practiced and practiced and practiced, perfecting their portion of the ballet. Then, two weeks before the performance, the unthinkable happened. My sweet girl, with a dancer’s soul, fractured her foot in two places.
My heart fractured into two pieces. I will never forget driving home from the specialist’s office. While my throat was thick with emotion, I had to make sure she understood her foot would not be well enough to perform in the ballet she had worked on for months. I could see tears pooling in her eyes reflected by the rearview mirror. I told her I didn’t understand all of the reasons, but that we both had to trust that God was in control. I told her it was okay to ask God why. I told her it was okay to be angry. I told her it was okay to wonder why God had allowed it to happen. It was then my daughter taught me one of the most poignant lessons about God I have ever learned. I heard her little voice from the back seat say, “Mommy, I just think God kept Satan from hurting me worse.”
Wait. What? I sat for a moment, stunned. God kept Satan from hurting me worse…I was the seminary graduate, and yet, here was my sweet daughter reminding me of a powerful Truth. The enemy can never destroy us! And over the next two weeks she continued to teach me countless lessons with overwhelming courage and grace.
Her incredible instructor reworked the choreography so Ella could still be in the ballet with her class. She would do all of the upper-body movements from the same place on stage. But my little girl was still broken-hearted. She wanted to dance! Who am I kidding? I desperately wanted to see her dance! I was broken-hearted too. The rehearsals leading up to the performance were difficult for her, as she could only sit and watch her classmates. She also had to endure countless, heart-felt comments from concerned friends and adults only serving to remind her of the dancing she could not do. Ella and I both held back tears during the dress rehearsal. Every single little part of her wanted to dance.
More than once, I questioned my wisdom in allowing her to participate at all. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to have simply gone to practice one last time and said good-bye to her classmates until August? Then she wouldn’t have had to face the enormous disappointment of not being able to dance? She wouldn’t have had to watch all the other dancers freely jete around her stationary position on stage. It was painful for her and gut wrenching for me as her momma.
The night of the performance, I struggled to leave her backstage. Would she be okay? Did I do the right thing? What if she decides she can’t go through with it? I sat in my seat anxiously waiting for her dance. At last, the notes I knew by heart began to play over the speakers. With my stomach flipping back and forth I watched as my daughter and her classmates entered from stage right. What I saw took my breath away. Tears filled my eyes as I witnessed my daughter dance. From her stationary position, Ella Grace danced from her very soul without ever moving her feet. Her smile encouraged me. Her bravery moved me. Her joy inspired me. My daughter danced. Oh, how she danced!
Don’t we move through our endless days broken? Isn’t our heart often fractured into two pieces, waiting to be mended? Aren’t we often asked to stand on the stage of life and watch the world dance around us? God doesn’t promise us a life without pain. We often face difficult, life-altering moments that break us and leave us tiny fragments of what we once were. But there is such hope! My daughter taught me that often our brokenness could be so much worse, and God really does keep the evil one from destroying us. She also taught me I could dance in spite of my brokenness. In spite of my pain, my frustration, my heartache, I too could learn to dance. And so I shall. Because maybe, just maybe, we only ever learn to really dance when we are broken.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1&4, “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” We have been created to dance. Our souls long for the deep joy it brings. My daughter dances with every ounce of her being—broken or not. She has taught me how to dance too.