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The Ballerina

by Glenn Frontin  
10/09/2008 / Parenting

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul speaks of the thorn in
the flesh that he endured after asking God three times to
take it away.
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my
strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly
I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ
may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for
Christ's sake. For when I am weak I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9
Christian men are aware of our culture's war on man's masculinity,
but we must also be aware of the opposite extreme. Both secular and
spiritual men suffer many of the same vulnerabilities. We strive for
success. We respect power. We savor the victories we achieve. We enjoy
acceptance and recognition. We have a nature that says we can do it on
our own. Humility and humbleness do not come naturally to us.
It makes no sense to this world when Paul speaks of strength being
found in becoming weak, but scripture tells us God will resist the proud,
but gives grace to the humble. The simple fact is that the spiritual soldier
will only have victory in battle by learning how to surrender. Not
surrendering to the enemy but to his ultimate commander-in-chief,
the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have found the strong spiritual soldier does not fit any mold. He is not
necessarily the man with the strongest physique, the most athletic, the best
looks, or the most powerful job. In fact, very often he is the man ignored by
the world, or even made fun of. He is the man who knows his relationship
with his God and seeks to live by God's will and not his own.
The same is true for women. It seems to me that this strength through weakness
seems to come more naturally to women than men. We seem to
struggle with the concept.
Perhaps the best illustration of strength through weakness that I
have ever seen occurred at a very unlikely place where I least expected
it, not from a brother while I was in the army, where physical and mental
toughness abounded, but at an elementary school dance recital.
The girls ranged from PreK to 5th grade, the first dance recital for
our five-year-old daughter, Emma, and the first for me, since Karen
and I had raised two boys. I was sitting up front with the rest of our
family and friends, anxiously awaiting the lights to go down and the
curtain to open, my video camera ready at a moment's notice. You
might think an hour and a half of watching little girls performing ballet
and creative dance would be dull, but from the first little angels that
glided out onto the stage, we were all enchanted by their enthusiasm
and their innocence. They each seemed to have their own way of performing
the same dance step and at times the choreography seemed
to dissolve right there on stage, only to reappear as the little ballerinas
continued. To every daddy there, his little girl was the prettiest and the
most graceful in the show and I was no exception. Emma tiptoed out
in her flowing blue dress, with a sparkling bodice and spaghetti straps.
Her long blond hair was pulled back, still wavy from the curlers Mom
had put in that morning. She performed each step with confidence and
the biggest smile.
Cameras clicked and movie cameras rolled as each group performed.
It was truly a blessing for all the families there, but a second,
unexpected blessing came later in the show, when the 4th grade girls
came out. They were older and had more experience than the little
ones. Their number was more intricate with more difficult moves and
more complicated choreography. It was a larger group of about twenty
girls and they moved across the stage as one, all except one young girl.
I didn't even catch it at first as the dance began, but I noticed someone
now and then would be out of step here and there. After a whole evening
of little girls being out of step I had grown used to it, but I finally
realized this girl was different. Her right hand was not fully formed
as neither was her right foot. Her movements, though correct, were
sometimes erratic and unsteady, struggling to keep up with the other
girls. I found myself cheering her on as she performed, falling out of
step, then a moment later back in position with the rest of the dancers.
Though you could tell she was concentrating as hard as she could,
her face beamed with delight and a bright smile never left her face.
Tonight she was a ballerina.
Even during my years as a paratrooper I had not seen such toughness,
resilience, and bravery, but somehow in her sometimes awkward
moments and her shining smile, I witnessed a sense of strength and
courage along with a vision of grace.
I thought of her dad somewhere in the dark audience, a daddy who
would do anything to heal his little girl. He probably held his breath
through the whole dance, probably not praying so much that she do as
well as the other dancers but that she would simply enjoy being there.
Talk about courage. How much easier it would have been to tell her
she simply couldn't do it, trying to avoid any more pain or disappointment
in her life. I prayed for her parents, hoping God had somehow
reassured them of His love and His purpose in all things, while honestly
being thankful that though Emma had been a so-called "high
risk" pregnancy, she was born physically healthy. I thought of the wisdom
and compassion of the dance teacher. Again, it would have been
easy to say she couldn't participate with the other girls. One could only
wonder what lessons those girls and that teacher learned from watching
this brave dancer each week.
She was right on queue when the music ended. She had finished
well, out of breath, but her smile even brighter than ever.
After the show, I spotted the little girl seated against the wall with
her friends. On impulse I walked over and crouched down to be eye
to eye with her. She was even prettier close up, her face with glittery
makeup, her hair intricately braided, still beaming from the magic of
the night. "You were beautiful out there," I said.
She looked at me, sat up even straighter and simply said, "Thank
you," and smiled.
I was thankful to her for the wonderful reminder of being grateful
for what we have been given and having courage and grace under
those tough circumstances that come in our lives. Aren't we just like
that little girl when it comes to our Christian lives? We get out of step
at times. We stumble, sometimes falling flat on our faces, but just like
the loving dad that was somewhere out there in that audience, our
Heavenly Father, in all His mercy and grace, sees us as His perfect
children. He is not interested in us being the best, just doing our best,
even with all the limitations we think we have in our lives. And my
thanks to those courageous parents who reminded me I need to be just
as courageous as a dad. And to a compassionate teacher, who taught
me I must never lose my compassion for those He brings into my life.
And to a little ballerina, who had a dream to dance, who proved you
face any obstacle in your life, and even do it with a smile.

Glenn Frontin is the author of A River Calling, a book for Christian dads raising sons. It takes the reader down the entire length of the Missouri River, filled with wilderness adventure, Lewis and Clark history, military training, spiritual warfare; all the stuff guys love...all the stuff we love.

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