But it didn't start that way. In the beginning, three years ago, she wasn't sure she was going to like doing tap at all. It was hard. She would leave her tap class frustrated and upset. A few times she came out of class to tell me that she thought her teacher was frustrated with her. She would tell me she "was the worst student in the class." Sometimes she would say she was intimidated by her teacher.
Now, here she is, 3 years later. She loves tap. Now she tap dances in competitions, and she has won three championship titles. She also dances on a competitive tap team, and this year her tap team was nominated for an IDA award for tap. That means that out of all the tap dance teams in the country -- her team was recognized as having one of the top choreographed and executed routines. What a transformation! Of course, now she loves to tap, and she tells me that she knows her tap teacher (the same one who was frustrated with her during that first year) is very proud of her and her accomplishments. Any frustration between her and her teacher is gone.
As we were driving home from the dance studio last week, I was remembering how far she had come. I asked her, "Do you remember how much you struggled that first year in tap? What changed?"
And her response was this: "Well, tap is very, very hard, until...you get your 'pull backs.' After that, it is easy. I went from being one of the worst students at the program, to being one of the best."
For some reason, what she said has stuck with me all week long: "Tap is very hard, until you get your 'pull backs;' after that, it is easy." That sentence has been replaying in my head numerous times this week; and today I woke up and figured out why.
My daughter's journey with tap dance may be likened to a metaphor for the Christian's spiritual journey.
For those of you who don't know what a pull back is, here is a quick video. (The main demonstration is from 1:00 to 1:30, if you would like to skip the introduction in the video!)
So, in the words of my daughter, those "pull backs" are the stumbling block in tap. They are the point of frustration. They are the skill that causes every novice and intermediate tap dancer to doubt themselves. Sometimes learning the "pull back" can even bring frustration between dancer and teacher. The novice dancer, or even the intermediate level dancer, may even consider quitting tap altogether. They may leave the program. They may leave their teacher.
So how does this relate to the Christian's spiritual life and his or her relationship with God? If you have overcome a major stumbling block in your walk with Christ, then you may fill in your own blank:
Following Christ was hard, until _____________________. Then it was easy. After that, I received so many spiritual rewards. After that, trusting God was easy.
For me, I can write this:
"Following Christ was very hard, until I finally just gave in to Christ's teachings. Until I finally decided to submit to what God placed on my heart to do through my conscience -- regardless of my own rationalizations and my own desires. After that, the spiritual rewards which came made it much easier to continue to follow Him. "
See, I called myself a Christian for over twenty years. But I had a number of "secret, small sin habits" in my life that I was engaging in. I now know that these habits were my "pull backs." For me, the sin habits involved how I was spending my free time. I won't go into details on this blog, because I don't want the description of my sin habits to be a stumbling block in assisting you to identify what your "pull backs" are.
In general, I had some habits that most people would probably not even consider to be sinful on the surface. But I knew in my heart that God wanted me to give those habits up. However, I didn't want to give those habits up. I even talked back to God, and rationalized that the habits were helpful and necessary in my life in order to reach my life goals. I ignored God's promptings and struggled, frustrated with God, My Teacher -- for 8 years. My pull back was this:
I needed to stop the rationalizing of doing things my way, and I needed to start following God's instructions; I needed to start submitting to His promptings in my conscience; and I had to trust and follow in Christ's example for me.
Once I finally just made a strong, conscious decision to submit to God's promptings on my heart,
Once I finally just gave in and gave up, and consciously decided to do what my conscience was whispering to me to do,
Once I ultimately and purposefully fell to my knees and told God --
"Okay God, I am going to quit these habits. I am going to quit them immediately and completely. With your help I am going to stop those habits, and I am choosing to change for only one reason -- not because I want to quit -- but because You have revealed to me that it is not what you want for me.
I am just going to trust You, believe your word, and follow You -- no matter what. I am going to stop practicing my 'pull backs' in the way I think will work. I am going to submit to You and to what you place on my heart to do. I am just going to give up my way, and I'm going to do life the way You show me. Not because I really want to; but because I choose to trust you."
Then everything spiritual in my life just became easier.
That 8 year long season of life was my "pull back."
I can now say that faith was really hard for me. Following Christ was really hard for me, until I got past that "pull back" maneuver. It took me 8 years to conquer that pull back. Now trusting God is so much easier.
So what is the "pull back" in your spiritual tap dance?
What is the skill you need to develop, or the stumbling block you need to overcome, or the sin in your life you need to release --
-- in order to experience a transformation from a "faith is hard" attitude to a "faith is easy" attitude?
You too can transition from a ho-hum Christian life, to the life of a spiritual champion in the spirit of Christ -- but first -- you must submit to what He places on your heart. And the decision to submit is just that -- a conscious decision to get over whatever is hindering you. It is a conscious decision to conquer your "pull back."
Whatever is in your life that is hindering you from conquering your spiritual pull back...just choose to let it go...with the help of prayer, Godly mentors, and relying on His spirit...just choose to let it go.
Believe me, I know that conquering your spiritual pull back will be hard. I just admitted that one of my pull backs took over 8 years to conquer. However, now, when faced with a new pull back, it is so much easier for me to not struggle, and instead to remain focused in My Teacher's (Christ's) instructions. Your first spiritual pull back may be very hard, but afterwards, your faith, your trust, and your desire to following Christ will be so strengthened that following Him becomes more like a familiar spiritual dance routine that you have mastered. And your reward for mastering this spiritual dance routine may not be a worldly trophy; but it will certainly be something so great in your spirit, that you can hardly even describe it.
I can try to describe it like this:
Immense peace, even in times of difficulty.
Immense happiness, even though your happiness is defined differently than how the world defines happiness. Others may see you and not even realize how much at peace and happiness you are. It is not of this world.
Immense security in who you are as a child of the Spirit of the Lord -- as if every cell in your body vibrates with the Spirit of the Lord, as His word and wisdom literally vibrate joy into your soul.
So with all I have to to encourage you -- I strongly recommend that you stay with Your Teacher until you conquer those pull backs!
With His help, conquer them!
You will never regret it!
You will never want to go back to your "pre-pull back" days!
I would like to end today's post with a few wonderful Billy Graham quotes and two verses from the Bible:
“God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better.” - Billy Graham
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” - Billy Graham
“When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God." - Billy Graham
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
- Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)
- Proverbs 28:13 (ESV)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!
- Romans 6:1 (ESV)
- Romans 6:1 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness... - Galatians 5:22
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