I had a friend in high school who had been a ballerina since she was just a wee girl. She went to lessons several days a week, making her way from the tiny ballerina dances of twisting and twirling into becoming quite proficient as dancing on "toe". If anyone knows what I am referring to here, you will recognize the work it takes to get to this point - and the strength. Toe shoes (pointe shoes) are kind of squared off at the end, and the dancer spends nearly the entire dance up on their toes. I used to look at her feet and wonder why she'd endure the pain of all those practices, until I saw her dance one day. I had seen her practice this leap or that twirl, but when I really saw her "dance", wow! All the "dogged plodding" of her daily practices really showed! What I saw as "dogged plodding" on her part was really a thing which she viewed as a living and spirited dance!
We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. (I Thessalonians 4:1-3 MSG)
There were some things she taught me about the shoes she wore and the dance she performed so very well. These things might just apply to our lives as "dancers" in God's courts.
- The better the shoe support, the better the dancer performs. Cheap shoes resulted in injuries to the feet. She saved for months to get her shoes. The quality of the "inner support" of the shoe was paramount to avoiding injury. These shoes are very light-weight, usually made of satin and ribbon, and have a "hard" toe box, some type of suede sole and a little bit of support for the arch. To protect her feet, she had to not only get the right "fit" to the shoe, but she had to ensure she danced on them as they were intended to be used. In other words, she did not put on "pointe shoes" to dance freestyle. She put them on to dance "on pointe". I think there are many choices of "shoes" to put on in life - some will be the right fit, but at the wrong time; others will be an improper fit, opening us to injury. Still others will be just the right "shoe" with the right "fit" at the right "time". If we want to be "on point" with God's best for our lives, we want to be sure we are "in" the "shoes" which will help us to dance "on pointe" the best!
- The shoes revealed progress. I really never thought about shoes much before she told me about all the pairs of ballet slippers she owned. She'd take them down from the shelves, open the tiny boxes one-by-one, displaying well-worn shoes. Each had a meaning to her. These memories were actually milestones in her career as a dancer. She'd saved them because they had meaning. Some were trophies of moving from one level of dance "theory" into the next. She had mastered some of her art and was moving to the next level, as evidenced by the many different sizes, shapes, and purposes for these various shoes. I noticed she had some made of soft leather, others of beautiful satin. She explained the purpose with such patience and pride.
First, the leather ones were durable. They stood up to all the frequency of practice required to master the skill being taught. They endured the "long haul". Second, the canvas ones were inexpensive and easy to find. They were simple, quick to obtain and wore out quickly. These were probably the most "tattered" ones in her bunch. I asked her why she saved such "ratty" looking ones. Again, they spoke to her about a milestone - a time when she thought she'd made a good purchase, just to find they did not perform well over the long haul. Third, the satin ones were beautiful. They were in varying shades of pinks and cremes. She displayed these with such pride. These were her "performance" slippers. They were put on when she would be dancing before her audience.
Each slipper had a purpose. Some were obtained quickly, but wore out way before their time - maybe like the "quick fixes" we hope for in life. When we try for the quick fix, we are "cheaping out". Others were quite practical, enduring well through tough use, but not much to look at. They spoke of the day-to-day consistency needed to make the progress one desired in the "dance". The shiny, smooth satin ones spoke of the joy of dancing with abandon and joy.
- Her greatest joy came in putting on those satin slippers on. She'd abandon herself in her dance. To her, she was dancing for an audience of one - Jesus. Her heart was reflected in each graceful move and elegant leap. She'd be lost in the dance - something I think Jesus took great delight in as he'd gaze upon her gracefulness and exuberance in the dance.
I think Jesus may just want us to learn the lesson of the ballet slippers today. When we "don" the right ones at the right time with the right fit, we find ourselves moving in step with him. There is nothing more delightful than dancing a "spirited dance" with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Just sayin!