Unlike my wife, who took ballet lessons for years and loves it, I’ve found ballet to be a slowly acquired taste. So I was quite caught off guard when tears suddenly came to my eyes near the end of Stravinsky’s Firebird.
In the story, there’s a young woman (dressed in green in today’s show) who’s been held captive under the spell of an evil wizard (who looks like The Joker, green hair and all). We see that she’s one of many green-clad maidens that the wizard has bewitched into loving and obeying him. But a young man (in white) appears and challenges the wizard. He himself fails against the wizard’s magic, but with the sudden aid of a powerful, spectacularly red firebird, he destroys him.
Released from the spell, the young woman sheds her green garments, revealing a simple and elegant white dress underneath. Immediately, the young man and woman recognize each other; they were lovers once, but the wizard’s schemes had torn them apart. In the finale, the other maidens reappear onstage, this time in their own white dresses, as the wizard’s death has freed them, too. Their ecstatic reunions with their own white-suited beaus conclude in one massive celebration as the young man and woman lead their friends in a triumphant dance.
My strong emotions began when the first young woman took off her green coverings. The dress underneath was simple, white, and lovely; in a word, it was PURE. As she and the other ex-captives joyfully reunited with long-lost loves, the whole scene became symbolic for me. These women were made pure and whole by a work of redemption; they were freed to once again feel truly loved. In a similar way, there have been a zillion times that I’ve felt completely clothed in shame – a shame that makes me feel like I’m total crap. I’m glad I feel it less frequently than before, but it still comes way too often. How I so want to lose this feeling of shame! I desperately want to feel pure and whole and deeply loved! It’s a longing so deep that seeing it fulfilled onstage brought me to tears.
Many of us experience chronic, toxic shame. We’d like our children to avoid falling into it, wouldn’t we? One great antidote to shame in kids is for them to both know and feel consistently that they are deeply loved. Holy Week is a perfect time for kids to learn that there is a Savior who loves them so much – no matter what they do or don’t do – that He died and rose again so they could live forever. Then we help them feel something of what the Savior’s love is like as we constantly remind them, in both words and actions, that we also love them unconditionally.
I am grateful for a wife and Christian brothers who’ve helped me experience a very slow, very gradual, yet truly growing release from the shame I’ve known since childhood. Little by little, my Redeemer is freeing me to feel deeply loved. It’s great that we can help our kids feel that, too!