The special moment had finally arrived. Excited parents sat in tiered seats, fiddling with their cameras while occasionally glancing up at the stage curtains. All those early Saturday mornings of trundling their kids off to dance classes were now going to be justified, as the performance of the year was about to begin. Their wonderful dance instructor, Helen, had patiently taught ballet, street dance, acrobatics and tap dance to children of all ages.
As the show began, everything went swimmingly, and it was soon time for the preschoolers to perform. They stood nervously backstage, eagerly anticipating their cue to step forward through the curtain and into the limelight, where a room full of beaming mums and dads were sat waiting quietly. Each strand of hair had been beautifully braided and with their tiny waists supporting a floaty, satin skirt, it looked like the audience were going to be entertained by nimble fairies. Helen smiled proudly when it was their turn to enter the stage and reveal all the hard work they had put in over the past few months.
They entered marching in time to upbeat music and they began to skip around merrily. Every child was holding a baton with a pom-pom attached at the end – not the fluffy, woollen type – but the glitzy tinsel type that cheerleaders use.
And then it happened.
Momentarily, many held their breath, but the hearts of everybody sank; the hearts of the parents watching, the hearts of the helpers backstage and the rapidly beating heart of one little girl.
She had dropped her baton.
As the music continued playing, for those watching, it was as if the volume had been turned down to a whisper. But for this infant, it must have seemed deafening, as her brain tried to decipher what to do next. She did what most children would do. She did what many adults do when tragedy strikes: She stood in the middle of the stage, head down, staring at the pom-pom that had landed by her toes.
I was on the front row with my daughter and sitting very near the unfortunate baton. Everything in me wanted to throw my coat to the floor, fling off my boots and fly onto the stage so I could quickly hand it back. We were crestfallen and hoped that maybe another child would quickly reach down and retrieve it for her. But alas, there it remained, lying limp on the floor, although on many occasions it had dazzled beautifully in her hands during numerous rehearsals.
Two small feet stood rooted to the spot, while others rose into the air landing in a hop. Two arms that wanted to fly upwards in a gallant wave, flopped redundantly as the arms of other infants flew high, sending shiny strips of tinsel towards the spotlights above. Two eyes glistened with moisture as tears were fought back; embarrassment, fear and confusion all mixed into one, as it now seemed too late to catch up with the rest.
She remained motionless as the music played and jovial children danced around her.
A moment before, she had been happy to be part of a show that demonstrated her dance skills and at the tender age of four, she had been doing remarkably well to remember all the moves. With her chin now resting on her chest, the end of the second baton made its way into her mouth as she chewed on it nervously.
Having been given strict instructions not to pick up her baton if it falls, the little girl stood anxiously observing all the others on stage, who in her peripheral vision, were now holding tightly onto their own batons so as to not incur the same fate.
We all know how immobilising it is when something we were grasping onto is no longer there. It matters little whether it was us who dropped it, or if it was cruelly snatched from our hands; whichever way, if often leaves us too shocked to function.
One day we are holding onto our health, the next, we are told we have a terminal illness.
We are planning great retirement holidays with our spouse, then they announce that they have found somebody else.
We talk proudly at how well our child is doing at school, just at the same moment their friend’s car is crashing into a wall with them in the passenger’s seat.
We make a dreadful mistake and are too full of shame to go back home or walk back into our church.
Yes some of us dropped our batons years ago and we are still staring down at them while others dance around us
When the performance finished, the audience clapped vigorously, and the youngster may have assumed this was not for her. Yet, if she had asked anyone in the room, they would have told her that she deserved their cheers as much as the ones who completed the sequence, and indeed, she was included in their ovation.
God does the same.
He is cheering you on and applauding you for every little effort you make. It doesn’t matter that others are sprinting past you while you are barely crawling. He is proud of your attempts to move in the right direction, no matter how small. He sees the work you put in behind the scenes, so when life knocks your baton from your hand, he already knows about your endeavours. He knows that your trouble is just one of those unfortunate things. But even when it’s the result of your foolishness or sin, he is still eager to help you back into ‘the dance’.
Although the youngster was doing as she was told – not to pick up her baton if it drops – she didn’t understand she was to continue dancing. In the same way, God wants to help us carry on despite the fact that:
The abuser may never apologise.
The business may never survive.
The distant parent may never embrace.
The money may never be enough.
The wayward spouse may never return.
The medication may never work.
The reputation may never be retrieved.
The dream may never be fulfilled.
The children may not follow wise advice.
The bullies may never show remorse.
The deceased will never breathe again.
Your Heavenly Father has never taken his eyes off you. You may feel like you’re going nowhere, but he is right here waiting to strengthen you each step of the way and show you what you can do when you allow him to direct your steps.
It’s hard to keep up with the pace of everyone else and not everybody can, and that’s okay.
He is waiting to jump up onto your stage, pick up your baton, dust it off and put it back into your hands; this time, with his fingerprints all over it. Then he will gladly move with you, helping you to learn to trust him and clapping loudly as you take the next step in the dance classes of life.
God is our refuge and strength – always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NLT)
Thank you for pausing from your busy schedule to have a little read. I hope that whatever baton has fallen from your hand, you will gain strength to reach out to God who will happily help you get back into the dance.