Grace is the word that we’ve heard. It’s got groove. It’s got meaning. Grace is the time and the place and the motion. Grace is the way we are feeling. Doot, Doot, Doo, Doo, Doot…Is the word, is the word, is the word…
Once I got going with that thought, I couldn’t really stop. It’s catchy isn’t it. But seriously, grace really does have a certain groove to it. I think we realize this when we talk about someone being “graceful,” as if grace and movement somehow float along together.
I was blessed several years ago to be given the opportunity to learn something new, something people my age rarely undertake without previous experience. Ballet. Yes, ballet. As a youth, I attempted cheerleading which did require a modicum of coordination. I remember failing at that endeavor quite miserably. My elementary school also offered a session of after-school lessons in baton twirling. I twirled my heart out practicing at home, but alas the glistening silver devil of a stick just wouldn’t obey my commands. Exercise in my college years and since has focused on physical movement that could be easily performed with little coordination: step aerobics (up, down, up, down, cross over, repeat) and stationary bicycling (which I could also do while reading, a bonus for most any type of activity for me!).
So, what possessed me to try ballet, you might ask. Yes, I still am asking that. My daughter had been taking classes for several years. Her instructor and the owner of the studio is not only a graceful person, she is also very gracious and grace-filled. She invited me to take their Adult Beginner Ballet class, and for some reason, I decided, “Why not?” I ended up at the dance studio most Saturday mornings for a golden age of time before my children’s activities encroached on that hour.
I can tell you that I LOVED the experience of dancing. Ballet has a sort of disciplined fluidity to it. It has the specific movements: the plie, pas du chat, the ronde de jamb, each requiring the precise placement and movement of the various parts of the body. But even when you are simply moving through the exercises at the barre, the way the movements flow one into the other takes on a meditative quality.
When I combined the discipline and precision with the art and soul, I felt like I was embodying something other, something beautiful. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great dancer. But in dancing, I felt the very real presence of grace.
Learning something new is hard, whether it is dancing or writing or swimming or loving or giving. That feeling of grace didn’t come the first or second class. In the beginning I felt very awkward. And the awkwardness never fully went away. But after I let go of all my worries about perfection and control and became fully present in my own body, Grace was able to find me even in my awkwardness.
Trying to define what grace is can be elusive. Sometimes grace is simply that feeling of oneness within myself, a word of acceptance for my imperfections.
I look back on my early adult years, about how I would look at people who are where I am now and wonder why they couldn’t hold it all together. For one thing, they were older and much more experienced than me. They should have it all together, right? Why are they late for meetings? Why can’t they get their children to behave? Why does their car look like someone has been living in it? I’ve learned a lot in the last 20 years. 20 years later, I don’t have it all together. And I never have. Sometimes I’m late for meetings. Sometimes my kids say things that make me say, “where on earth did they hear that?!?” Sometimes (well, most of the time) it looks like wild animals have ransacked my car and it is far beyond habitability. Sometimes I don’t say or do the right things. It’s taken me 20 years to understand that no one is perfect.
My son helped me learn this lesson. When he was 6 years old, he attended a Montessori school. Each year, the school had “Mom’s Night” where Mom or Grandma could come to school and the child would give the mom lessons and share their “school world” with Mom. (They also had “Dad’s Night” at a separate time). We had been at the school since Ryan was three years old and we always looked forward to Mom’s Night. I was in my second year of theology school and Tuesday was my full day. I left the house at 5:45 to beat the traffic into the city. I was in school all day, until dinnertime. I picked him up, we had dinner. Something was unsettled in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was not right. And, as I was putting him to bed, we snuggled in to read a book before lights out. I suddenly realized that we had missed it. I gasped and said, “Oh no! Tonight was Mom’s Night!” I told him how sorry I was that we had missed our special night together. He calmly patted my shoulder and gave me a hug and said, “That’s OK Mommy, we all make mistakes sometimes.”
Being accepted in the midst of our most imperfect moments, the moments where we have disappointed, or hurt, or simply missed the mark in some way…that is grace.
How much better the world is when grace is leading the dance.