Two years ago when the kids got up to sing, Ethan had just gotten his diagnosis. I watched the kids and had to fight the thought that kept coming into my head...Will Ethan ever be able to do that? It felt like one more broken dream added to a large pile. Last year, as we witnessed him practice along with his sister at home, the thought changed to maybe he will. And this year, amazingly, I marveled that he could be ready to do this next year, at age 5.
Of course, there's the whole thing about the distracting bright lights. And standing still on a stage. Waiting in line patiently. Learning to use a quiet voice and learning to at times keep completely silent. Remembering to sing. As I thought over the list, I wondered how we expect any child who is preschool or kindergarten age to get up on stage and perform. Then I remembered that we don't, really.
The first show was at 2 o'clock on Saturday. My friend's son, who is 5, was in tears waiting to go on stage, he was so scared. Then he began to sob. Someone led him away just as the kids were getting on stage. There was feedback from the microphone. One soloist stumbled over her words; another forgot a part and covered her face with her hands.
As I stood in the back in the dark and watched, I thought about how forgiving we are when children perform. There is something beautiful and pure about their unsteady voices. There is an innocence in their mistakes. Something about the imperfection brings out smiles from the adults watching, and warms hearts in a way that I don't think a polished, professional children's choir does.
As I listened, I wondered why I would expect Ethan to be perfect, when there were typical four-year-olds on stage yawning, tugging at their sleeves, and even turning around backwards.
I wondered why we forget that there is beauty in weakness.
There is a story that Jason Upton tells about "working" with his little boy. I know I often talk about him, but that's because I've been profoundly impacted by his music. He tells the story of sitting at a work bench, doing something like hammering or sawing and having his little boy come up and ask if he can help. And of course Jason lets him and of course his help isn't much help at all, but they're spending time together, and they're laughing, and there's something so sweet about the way his son was making an effort, as small and inconsequential as it might have been.
I think that sometimes this is the way God sees us. I think that's what God sees, when those kids are up there belting out songs a little bit out of tune. When we nod and smile and are still touched by the beauty, we are seeing like God. And when we try and don't give up, and when we try and still fail, like the little boy who just couldn't make it onto that big stage, we are loved by God.
It's like the song Jason wrote about his son wanting to be with him:
Everything you do
I wanna do with you
Cause doing things with you it makes me happy
And everything you say
I wanna say it too
Cause even when I say it wrong we just start laughing
Merciful Father I'm learning to trust you love me the way that I am
My simple desire to help you means more to you
than whether I really can