Lessons of a Ballerina

I have had the pleasure of attending our granddaughter’s ballet recitals for twelve consecutive years. She danced in three different ensembles this past Saturday - two ballets, and one jazz piece. Although Josselyn was one of many lovely and accomplished dancers, her radiance from the stage not only delighted me, but struck me with a lesson I had forgotten. Some lessons are harder for us to learn than others. God has a way of bringing them back around again.

As Christians, don’t we dream to be like Jesus? We hear His call to be holy, loving, humble, and selfless. We want to be His very best servants so we can feed His sheep and bring His love to the lost and hurting people around us.  Our vision is to be Christ-like; our frustration is that it doesn’t happen overnight, in a month, or even a decade. Disappointed in our efforts, many of us turn from Christ’s reality to believe instead in our failed performance.

Josselyn showed me that to be a dancer, you have to believe you are a dancer, and you have to dance like one every single day, even when you are tired or make mistakes. For a dozen years she went to hundreds of practices and strenuous training classes that evolved into longer and longer hours to which she lugged her ballet shoes and leotards in bags with her books and homework after school. Often she didn’t get home until after ten at night, with no time for dinner. She collapsed in bed and awoke most mornings with a smile of anticipation for the next practice. Every new day was an opportunity to realize her dream. Josselyn has lived her dream like I have wanted to live for Christ. This is the revelation my fourteen-year old ballerina imparted to me.

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “One of the tragedies of life is that we forget who we are.”

If we have a passion for Jesus, why is it such a struggle to serve and obey Him consistently? Why can’t we love others as He did? Why is it so hard sometimes to be a Christian? Perhaps, in our desire to be perfect, we use others as our role models rather than Him, or we try to measure up to our church community rather than Christ Himself. I confess, at times I exhaust myself by trying to act like a Christian, rather than just being one. I forget what I believe in, and instead of being joyful, I mope.

Jesus loved people but He did not try to be like them. He was completely comfortable in His skin as He lived out His Father’s vision of love for mankind. This was His call as the Son of Man – His belief.  If we want to be like Jesus, we must spend time with Him reading His words, learning His ways and believing what He says about us – “whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do….” (John 14:12) Only then can we put His truths into practice.

I have watched my granddaughter twirl, tiptoe, plié, and sail across dozens of stages in tutus, flouncy dresses, and long flowy gowns. In every performance, her hazel eyes have been wide with joy, her head held high, and her arms reaching more gracefully each year. Her love for ballet has been palpable whether she dances in the front or the very back of the stage. Her platform has been her commitment to the dream God gave her, and she surrenders it back to Him in worship every time she dances.

Through my granddaughter, I have seen passion take form. For years we watched her emerge, giggling and gangly, upward toward her dream to become a ballerina. Now with aplomb, she is strong and confident upon satin lined pointe shoes, reaching elegantly toward heaven with nimble fingertips. When she smiles, she fills the auditorium with her bright joy. The dream she believed in has always been true – she is a ballerina.

When we believe in Jesus, how can we doubt ourselves? We don’t need practice to perform – we need Him. It is with Jesus Christ alone that we can be right with God and perfect in His eyes. As the Apostle Paul declared, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Believe that who you are in Christ is true, and dance!


“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,

Love like you’ll never be hurt,

Sing like nobody’s listening,

And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

–W.W. Purkey