I want to run something past you. I asked you to show me something the other day and I think you did, but, you being you, it was sort of oblique and mysterious so I've been turning it over in my mind. Days later, I think I get it, but I just want to check.
I don't feel so bad about being a bit dense; the disciples used to nod knowingly when out and about and then ask, 'Lord, what were you on about?' when you were back at the camp, didn't they?
As I say, I've been pondering.
A group of us were praying about what sort of shape a ministry to women might take at our church. We all have a longing to do something to support and encourage and equip the ladies in our church - between us we seem to have more than our fair share of brokenness and sadness - but we're not sure what to do or where to start. Over the months it's become clear that you are with us, but until we can discern what direction you want us to take, we don't want to start going anywhere at all. Best just keep asking, and keep listening.
So we sat in a room and we asked you to speak to us. Scripture, words, pictures, impressions, a glowing neon finger writing on the walls, anything. And speak you did. You confirmed in a lot of ways that our ideas were in accord with each other, and you seem to be saying 'Don't worry; it's all good'.
One picture that came into my head continued to puzzle me for ages after the meeting, though. Suddenly, waiting for Elizabeth outside her school among a sea of Mums huddled in overcoats and scarves in the drizzle, it came to me.
I saw an ice-skater. She had dark hair piled up on her head and she was wearing a bright pink gauzy skating dress that flowed around her in layers. The background was darkness, the ice bright white. She skated. She danced across the ice with grace and elegance and exuberance, leaping and dancing. Twirling and swooping. She was skilled and confident, her footwork deft and sure. She was happy and uninhibited and she was skating for the sheer joy of it. This was her thing and she knew that she was good at it. Full of energy, she danced lightly across the ice, beautiful and smiling, her vivid pink dress standing out against the pristine white of the ice. A spotlight followed her around the ice, never leaving her, anticipating her every move. She was comfortable in the spotlight, comfortable with herself; unafraid.
Here it is. I think.
The skater is one of your children; she's a woman who knows you.
You hold the spotlight, and she dances for you. For you and for herself. She is happy to be in the spotlight; she knows that that light goes with her wherever she goes. She loves to skate for you and show you the new things she has learned and she's fearless in breaking new ground, knowing that you're always there when she falls. She loves to do her thing and you love to watch her. The two of you enjoy each other.
I don't know whether there's an audience in the darkness surrounding the skating rink, but I don't think it matters. She dances for you only. People might watch, or they might not, but she doesn't care because she dances for you; your approval is all that she needs. If the audience is there, they see her doing her best, giving it her all. They may see her fall, but they'll see her get up again as well. She skates to a tune that only she can hear and the steps are choreographed by you; it's a dance that shows off the gifts you have given her.
This woman is free. She's full of potential and she grows every day; becomes more daring and more innovative. She's free to express herself and she knows how proud you are of her. You move the spotlight as she glides around the skating rink and you ensure that she is never in darkness; she is always illuminated by your light. The far side of the rink is in darkness but she knows that she will always have enough light for the move she's making. Your timing is perfect and the two of you are in synch. She might falter, but you never turn away and leave her in shadow. She wants to please you and she knows that to use the skill she has makes you smile.
She brings you glory by celebrating all that she is.
I think that this is what you want for your children. You want your people to reach for you, to enjoy you and enjoy the blessings you love to give us. You want us to be all that we can be.
This woman, she knows who she is. She knows that she is yours and that you're pleased with her. She is light and free and not weighed down by anything. She carries nothing with her. She has all she needs.
She is not limited by her own opinion of herself and is not afraid to step out in faith to try something new and difficult if you ask her to. She smiles; she dances for you, and that's enough. She doesn't care if anyone else is watching, or what they think of her body, her style, her ability, the way she expresses herself - she looks only to you, and she feels your pleasure. She doesn't compare herself with swimmers or artists or singers, because she was made to skate, not swim or sing or draw. She doesn't compare herself with other skaters because they all have a different style and a different routine, and in any case she has a spotlight all to herself.
She has learned to listen to your voice above all others, even her own. She knows she is wonderfully made; that she is some of your best work, and that watching her skate makes you smile.
She is not bound in by fear of failure, because you have taught her not to worry, only to do her best. She doesn't shrink from a difficult manoeuvre, tricky footwork or starting from scratch with a new routine because she trusts the teacher and she hears his voice, challenging and encouraging.
I don't know what this lady looks like, but I know that she is beautiful. She glows. She is radiant. She has the look of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin; she knows who she is and she knows what she is for. She loves to dance across the ice because she was made to dance. She has all that she needs. She is exhilarated and excited every time she glides on the ice. She has confidence and security.
She is in love. She skates for her lover, knowing that he finds her captivating. She wants to please him. She dances for an audience of One.
This is what you want for us.
I'd like that too.
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