Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lessons from Season 16: I Look Up

As Ad Deum’s 16th season swiftly comes to a close, here are a few lessons company members have learned during the season. Think of it as a page from their personal journals. It is our hope and prayer that the lessons they’ve learned will encourage, affirm, challenge, and inspire you as you continue to walk and grow in your own journey. This entry is from Shannon in her second season with the company.

This season, I’ve been asking the Lord to teach me how to prepare for performances. Because let’s face it: according to my title, I am a professional dancer, which means I have arrived and I am far too old or advanced or both to be so stinking nervous before every show. Right?? My answer came during Ad Deum’s Spring Dance Intensive this past March.

Spring intensive has always been a special time for me. It was my first introduction to the company when God provided the opportunity for me to audition two years ago; it was also a great time of growth and breakthrough last season as an apprentice. This year was no different. That one week was a life-changing experience, and not just as a dancer.

Long, on-going journey short, we were rehearsing the piece “With Incense, We Rise,” choreographed by Vincent Hardy. During rehearsal time, Vincent gave us time and space to marinate in God’s presence and to just listen. Little did I know this time would be so important, not only to that rehearsal (and our in-studio performance later that evening), but also to dance and my life in general.

If you are like me, worship is usually a time spent with eyes closed. During this rehearsal time, however, I felt the Lord clearly leading me to keep my eyes open. Lying with my back on the floor, I found myself looking up. Through those precious moments, God spoke to my heart that looking to Him is the best, most important action I can take to prepare for a show. If I feel anxious, I should look up. If I’m worried about that one step that I always seem to mess up, I should look up. If I’m nervous about the stamina required for the show, I should look up. If I feel intimidated and lacking, I should look up. If I’m excited with energy pumping and adrenaline rushing, I should look up. In all things, I should look up.

Please don’t get me wrong. God teaching me how to prepare for a show is far less about a formula and the literal action of looking heavenward and far more about my heart posture. Because ultimately, at the heart of my nervousness is often a lack of trust in God and His willingness or ability to deliver on His promise to carry me through what He has called me to do.

Since beginning to learn this lesson, it’s not that I don’t get nervous anymore. Instead, it’s that I better know how to handle those nerves. I can take the pressure off of myself from demanding a safely perfect performance and focus on honest communication of the piece’s message.

When I look up, I am reminded to leave everything in God’s hands. When I look up, I am strengthened in the freedom of the knowledge that I am not good enough, but the God I serve is able and He is faithful. When I look up, I am calmed as I remember that I can trust God. When I look up, my surroundings fade; I can give all my concerns to the Lord in exchange for a clear focus on the message of the piece I’m getting ready to perform, and I can trust God to take care of the rest.

I’m not saying I go around dancing with my eyes to the sky when my focus is choreographed to be elsewhere. Rather, as a result of reminding myself that God is the only one who can make the performance a success, I am able to be present and engaged while dancing. I know that God is the only one who can make the performance have any significant impact (John 15:5); and because I am convinced that He has called me to that time and place, He will. Admittedly, it may look a bit different than my definition of a successful show, but it will be marked by the life-changing impact that only God can bring, not my perfect timing, expert spacing, or pointed feet.

As I began applying this lesson to preparing for performances, I soon found that it can also be applied to life in general. And it really should be! God knew that while He was answering my desire to learn how to prepare to perform (which is a journey on which I am still walking with Him), He was also teaching me how to approach life, both when things get tough and when life is bliss. I look up when I feel overwhelmed with my schedule. I look up when I’m concerned about finances and summer jobs. I look up when I wrestle with life’s various emotions, injuries, unexpected events. I look to the Rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61).

I don’t have to have all the right answers. I don’t even have to know all the right questions. All I have to do is look up: Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and, praise God, I am not.

- Shannon

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