I love observing the graceful movements of others. I find myself mesmerized by the motion of a ballerina effortlessly dancing across the stage, perfectly synchronized with the music. Each step and note gracefully flow together to tell a seamless, soul-stilling story.
I’d love to think that I am graceful, too. The truth, however, might be quite the opposite. I’ve had multiple concussions in the past few years, and when I move I regularly trip and bump into things. And my issues with depth perception and inability to catch airborne objects have cautioned me to avoid most sports.
And I feel the same sense of clumsiness in my communication. A combination of dyslexia and trouble putting my thoughts into words means I am often anything but clear, concise, and eloquent. I often stumble over my words when I read aloud and regularly use the wrong words for things I am trying to share (or, sometimes, the right words in the wrong order). Occasionally my mind and mouth synchronize and my communication becomes graceful for a moment, but this feels rare these days.
Where I feel the clumsiest lately, however, is in my engagement with God. There was a time when my faith felt like it flowed effortlessly. I remember sitting atop beautiful cliffs near my college campus, listening to instrumental movie scores and reading Scripture. God’s words flowed into my heart and mind like water into a sponge. Speaking to him felt easy. I felt a connection to him and was confident that I was living out his story for me as I moved through my day. My faith felt like a graceful dance.
These days, my faith feels awkward and halting, like start-again/stop-again traffic. Instead of feeling graceful, I easily go from forgetting God and his perspective to feeling around for him in the dark or grasping for him as I stumble. I’ve heard others attribute some of this chaos and inconsistency to my current season of life having young kids, other challenging circumstances, and the passing of the naive optimism that I had at age 20. I agree with them, but it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of my experience of my clumsy and halting faith.
This felt particularly apparent today. I awoke with an empty schedule and a long list of things to do before leaving town in a couple of days. This is the type of day that used to energize me. Instead, I was exasperated. Between a silly conflict with my husband and the low-grade fever I was running (and the anxiety that there was no clear cause for it), I was heavy-hearted and fuzzy-brained. The story that was unfolding in front of me seemed disjointed and empty of God’s presence and favor.
After a couple hours of trying to navigate all this, it dawned on me how much I needed to reach for him, but my weakness and embarrassment made it feel difficult and deeply awkward. I remembered a phone app a friend had recommended called “Pray as You Go,” and in my quiet desperation, I opened it. A song began to play:
In the calm and in the storm
When it seems I’m all alone
It’s your hand I find to hold.
In each hour of unrest
When it seems I’ve nothing left
You speak peace in every breath…
For you are always, always with me.1
Suddenly I remembered that my irregular and ungraceful “movement” is not surprising to God and, in fact, is presupposed by him—so much so that he stands at the ready to compensate for it.
I recalled Jesus’ words in Mark 2:17, and I realized that it is not the strong, steady, and dignified that need a physician, but the weak, wobbly, and awkward. He has not come to call the graceful, but the clumsy and the halting. And Jesus doesn’t simply welcome the feeble and cover their shame; he praises and applauds their display of neediness, like an audience member at the end of the ballet, or, maybe more appropriately, a parent witnessing his child take their first steps toward him.
Jesus…marveled at [the centurion], and…said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9)
Jesus answered [the Canaanite mother], “O woman, great is your faith!” (Matt 15:28)
And he said to [the Samaritan leper], “…your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)
Jesus…said to [his disciples], “Let the children come to me…for to such belongs the kingdom of God…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them. (Mark 10:13–16)
Though these people may have looked awkward or embarrassing to those around them, Jesus looked at them and saw their need for him as beautiful and graceful. He knows our inelegant movements are part of the dance and require us to rely on him to make us move as we were meant to.
I pray you will take clumsy, halting steps toward him today and know in your heart that he is making your movement graceful and beautiful as you observe his graceful and beautiful movement toward you.
1 IAMSON, “Always With Me (Song for Anxiety),” Room Sessions, Vol. 1, 2022.