5,6,7,8, Again! Again! Again! Last time! Again!
If this sounds familiar to you, there’s no doubt that you were a dancer. And you know as well as I do that “last time” is very rarely the last time. Dancers spend their lives repeating, adjusting, repeating, and adjusting, in aim of perfection.
From the sweet age of three, this rhythm became a part of my heartbeat for the next 17 years of my life, and I loved every bit of it. The way my body felt after a deep stretching exercise, the sense of pride from finally getting that complicated time step, the banging of another medal being added to my collection, moving an audience to tears and applause - these were the driving forces for everything I did.
And although I will forever be grateful for my time as a dancer, and the few years I spent teaching, I realize in retrospect that I often confused my identity as a dancer and my identity as a young lady. As a result, I believed two big lies:
1. Womanhood is competition.
2. Perfection is key.
I refer to my first few years as a Christian as “the mustard seed years” because my faith was very small. As a high school student I knew that God loved me, and I loved Him, but that was about it. I still wanted to be loved by those around me. I believed that there wasn’t enough love to go around, and in order to be accepted, I had to compete for it. The sad part about this competition was that in order to be loved, someone else had to be unloved. There couldn’t be two winners. So I was a girl desperately striving after the affection and praise of everyone around me.
It wasn’t until college that I first understood the model for friendship that Jesus gives us: He denied Himself in order to bless others. He chose to be last, when He could have been first. He chose to serve when He could have been served. He lost His life so that others might be free.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. - Mark 10:45
I learned that her strengths don’t make my strengths any less. In fact, we’re stronger together. Through the example of Christ and other godly women, I began to choose sisterhood over competition, embracing the strength and beauty of others.
This new perspective of sisterhood changed the way I interacted with other girls, yet I still felt slave to perfection. My pulse was still beating to a 5,6,7,8. I had to have my act together. I couldn’t let anyone see me stumble. My smile could not fade. And although I knew I wasn’t perfect, “Fake it till I make it” was my mantra.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. - 1 John 1:8
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. - James 5:16
As I grew deeper in my new community in college, I watched women live out these two Bible verses, sharing their deepest struggles - the ugly, embarrassing, painful parts of their lives. At first I was shocked. It amazed me to see women who I thought had their lives wrapped up in a perfect curly ribbon share what was really inside their hearts - I wasn’t alone in my brokenness. I soon felt relieved. The less perfection I saw, the less perfect I felt the need to be.
Through the power of confessing, I learned that we don’t have to put our best foot forward with God. He knows all of our steps, all of our insecurities, and how many times we’ve rehearsed that perfect line and fake smile.
Likewise, God’s community doesn’t grow by a bunch of perfect girls holding hands and singing their own praises. True sisterhood thrives when we let our sickled feet, missteps, stumbles, and hamburger hands show. Because people aren’t attracted to our performances, they’re attracted to our humanity. Bloopers will always bring more smiles than a perfect performance. True sisterhood is made through authenticity and it’s sustained by clinging to the cross together.
From time to time, culture and social media still tug on my heart, telling me my sisters are my competition, and that only a platinum performance will make me accepted. But God so gently reminds me of His truth when I need it: I’m loved, not because of my performance, but because of HIS act of love that saved my soul. I’m loved because the Righteous Judge - not a panel of judges - says I am.
Competing with my sisters is a losing battle for everyone.
And lastly, no one wants to watch me perform; they want to hop up on stage and improv along to this dance we call life together. And I’ve always believed that dancing with friends is better than dancing alone.