After the fall

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I had my first major fall in ballet class about a year ago. One moment I was up, executing the best pirouette I'd ever done. The next moment, I was down on the floor.

It must have been a pretty impressive fall, because the pianist stopped playing, the other students stopped dancing, and the instructor came running over to see if I was all right.

As I sat there, she asked me some specific questions. I appreciated not only her concern but her expertise. I trusted her experience, her long professional history. She was deeply familiar with her art, and she knew exactly what she needed to hear from me. She knew I was going to be all right.

Once she was reassured, she addressed the rest of the class. I don't remember her exact words, but she said something like, "You'll know you've begun to advance in a major way when you take a fall like that."

Ballet has provided me with many metaphors for life. So, that impressive fall, along with my teacher's observation, has given me a lot to think about.

Two or three times a week during class I accomplish things – and I watch other students accomplish things – that are supposed to be impossible to do. For one thing, we defy gravity on a regular basis. What goes up does come down eventually – but I'm learning that the more you know about the rules, and the more closely you consciously follow them, the less likely you are to land with a crash. And when you do fall, you learn how to get back up – with focus, care, control, grace, and courage – in order to start dancing again.

I've "fallen" many times in my life. The first major fall I took – after a series of discouraging setbacks in my education and profession – occurred when I fell in love with an older married man. I thought he was the great love of my life. He was a good man – after all, I'd fallen in love with him – and he decided to stay with his wife. I agreed that was the right thing, and I moved away to help him (and me) stick to his decision.

It took me a long time to stop feeling like I didn't care whether I lived or died, but I did get over that feeling, and I learned some things I am very grateful to know all these years later.

I learned that no matter how bad things get, if you are willing to be patient and humble – and if you are willing to wait – there will be an answer. There will be a recompense. I eventually got up after that first major heartbreak and began to dance again, so to speak. I learned along the way that my life didn't depend on that man. Life depends on God. God gives me my life, and He holds me in it. God gives me my talents and a way to accomplish them.

And I love the life I've lived. The events I've faced haven't always been happy. But my life has been interesting and fulfilling, with lots of variety in it.

I've found a Bible passage that speaks directly to me every day: "Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever" (Ps. 30:11, 12). I take those verses to include God's specific, ongoing promise to me, as well as the directive for what I'm supposed to do for Him in return.

Not too long ago, I heard from that man I'd thought my life depended on. He's happy. He's a productive, successful artist. Hearing from him makes me feel like I've had a little glimpse of eternity, because I've lived long enough to know that we both got up off the floor and went back to the dance. Neither one of us was bruised forever. The happy ending didn't necessarily have to be that we'd get together. We're fine. More than fine, in fact.

So, whatever the reason you think you've fallen, you can get back up off the floor. Your fall marks a point in your progress. You're going to be just fine.

Prayer means that we desire

to walk and will walk in the light so far as we receive it, even though with bleeding footsteps, and that waiting patiently on the Lord,

we will leave our real desires

to be rewarded by Him.

Mary Baker Eddy

(founder of the Monitor)

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