My kiddos have a performance for their school’s annual Grandparents’ Day program coming up soon. They’ve been working on it since the end of January. Little-by-little, they’ve practiced in the classroom to make sure they get things memorized and know when and what to do. The day before the program, they will hold a dress rehearsal, and the parents are invited to watch.
Why do they do it this way? Why do they practice in their classroom with their teacher and peers first, then get on stage to practice in front of their parents all before the big performance for the grandparents ?
By starting out in the classroom,they have a safe environment that allows them to mess up without embarrassment or fear. They’re just beginning to learn, and the teacher is right there to help guide them and get them back on track if necessary.
The stakes are a little higher, though, when they move to the stage and go through dress rehearsal in front of the parents. The parents are fully aware that it’s a dress rehearsal, so we expect it to possibly take twice as long as the real performance because there will likely be areas where the teacher has to stop and correct or guide and remind students of their lines, positions, or timing. The teacher is still nearby, but she sometimes is out of the sight of the students and is much quieter than she was in the classroom. She still stops and corrects when necessary. Although the students have somewhat of a safety net when making mistakes during this rehearsal, they may feel more pressure than before because they now have a small audience, and their teacher isn’t “holding their hands” right next to them as she did in the classroom.
When the big day comes, the students definitely feel the pressure. They not only are in full costume on a large stage in a very large auditorium with seats full of grandparents and camera flashes, but the teacher is not on stage directing them. She is sitting in the audience. The students are on their own to remember everything they’ve learned and everything they’ve practiced. All eyes are on them, and any mistakes made are not going to be corrected. This day is an all or nothing day.
This is exactly what God does for us. He gives us small areas to make mistakes in, so we can get comfortable with whatever he’s asking us to do. He’s holding our hands and giving us correction through his word and through the people he’s placed in our lives who love us and guide us as we make those mistakes.
What would happen if my kids’ teachers did something different? What would happen if they announced the assignment just moments before the students would be putting on that same performance? There’s no way anyone would be prepared. It would be a catastrophe, and all those kids would be devastated and would likely have a fear of performing at any capacity in the future.
There’s a reason the teachers announce the assignment two months before the performance. There’s a reason they walk the students through every step and give them time to practice and room to mess up. There’s a reason they don’t reprimand them for making mistakes but instead lovingly correct those mistakes. They do this because they know what’s up ahead. They know what’s needed to make the performance a success, and they’re preparing the students for that big day. They do this because they want to bless the grandparents through this program. They do this because they want to protect the hearts of the children, and in order to do that, they need small rooms to mess up in so they are less likely to mess up in the big room.
God allows us to fall not because he’s angry at us or doesn’t care about us or isn’t there. He allows it so that we will learn how to correct our mistakes so that when the time comes we will be able to bless others all while keeping our hearts protected. Just like the teacher is showing the students it’s okay to mess up, and she still loves them when they mess up, God is doing the very same thing for us.
There’s still one important piece to this analogy. I’ve been to many school performances, and there’s one thing I can be certain to see on that day. The teacher will be eagerly sitting ahead of the front row. She will not say a word, but she will be smiling from ear-to-ear, sometimes gesturing for the students to remember to smile, sometimes pointing in the direction for them to go, and I can be certain that if a student freezes or completely gets lost in their lines, she will use a still, small voice to give the first few words of the next line so that student doesn’t feel hopeless and is able to continue on with his or her part. She does not ever at any time leave them. They know they can trust and depend on her if they get lost. Why is she sitting ahead of the front row? She’s there so her face doesn’t get lost in the crowd, so the students see her before they see anyone else, and so they know she’s right there with them loving them every step of the way even if the performance is not perfect. She is their security during that time of great pressure.
God does not ever leave us. If we keep our eyes on him and not allow the crowd to distract us or our mistakes to devastate us, and if we know exactly where to look when we are uncertain of what to do next, we can trust that he will use his still, small voice to get us back on track. We have to be ready to listen and know where to look, though, but that’s why we practice and prepare so much ahead of time. Just like the teacher gives those students a place to make mistakes before putting them on stage in front of many people, God does the same for us. He allows those mistakes to happen, but he allows them in the safety of a “little room” before he opens the door to a bigger one.