I began taking ballet lessons when I was just three years old. I never could remember learning ballet just as I couldn’t remember learning to walk. It just always seemed to be.
By the time I was eleven years old I was taking classes five days a week. My muscles had been trained to the point that I had the “dancer waddle.” Indeed, my friends would tease me that I walked like a duck. My posture even when walking through the halls of school was as if I had a book on my head. I looked like a dancer even when I was not in the studio or on the stage.
As a young girl I would sit in complete awe and watch the older dancers raise to the tip of their toes on pointe. I studied them so that I might emulate their actions. I chose my heroes carefully.
In high school I would spend summers in New York City attending classes at various studios. I watched my diet to maximize energy and maintain the physique of a dancer. Dance had become an entire lifestyle and identity.
Every ballet class, whether as a beginner or a professional begins at the barre. The dancer holds on and begins with a demi-plie, the building block. It looks simple enough, from first position the dancer bends her knees. However, she must be sure she is not rolling her feet and that her hips are aligned. Her spine must be straight. Perfecting the plie at the barre is what will allow her to soar across the stage in a glorious grand jete. It is all interconnected and correct muscle memory is imperative. Learning to plie correctly will save her from injury and allow her leaps to be higher.
The transition from wobbly toddler to professional dancer in NYC took countless hours, sweat, blood, frustration, sacrifice, and above all determination. I fell a lot but I always got back up because there was nothing I loved more in life than dancing. To this day the only two things that have surpassed that passion are being a mother and being a child of God.
Life is full of processes of becoming. I became a dancer. I became a mother. My children will become men. I am becoming a disciple of Christ. In each transition, seemingly menial tasks build upon the next in order to train, strengthen, and build endurance. However, anything worth becoming is going to cost something. If chosen well, the worth is always greater than the cost.
My spiritual training echoes my ballet training. Both endeavors required commitment and perseverance. They have both demanded that I attended to my training even on the days when I did not feel like it or when I was too tired or would rather be doing a million other things. The certainty that it would all be worth it someday moved me through dry spells and frustrations.
I have had to train my spiritual muscles over many years by journaling, reading my Bible, attending and being an active participant in church, praying, being kind to the “least of these,” daily deciding to live as I profess to believe, choosing my hero carefully and emulating Him. Just as I did not begin ballet lessons and suddenly become a proficient dancer, I did not give my life to Christ and suddenly become a disciple. Though given the name “Christian” I was not a true follower. I could not have been because the process had only just begun. It still has not yet been completed but I have dedicated my mind, my heart, and my will to submit to the process of becoming.
The process of becoming means I must trust the process which necessarily requires patience. I must know on a soul level that every motion, every journal entry, every spiritual ache, every cry out to God, every prayer, every act of kindness and compassion will build upon another leading to the glorious day when I am who I was meant to be.
My hope is that, as with ballet where people could tell that I was a dancer by the way I carried myself people will know to whom I belong by the way I carry myself now and not just by where I sit Sunday morning. Has my spiritual life become my identity and an all encompassing life style? Can people around me tell I have trained my muscles to function differently than they did before? Is my Teacher proud to call me His student?
God is the initiator and perfecter of my faith. He began the good work but it is up to me to train so that I might grow until it is finished. It is up to me to never cease the process of becoming.