My Plum attended Vacation Bible School for the first time this past week, finally old enough for the age requirement. He rejoiced each day in the activities, the singing, the discoveries. He made new friends, connected with adults in our congregation and grew even more comfortable in the space. On the last evening, all the children performed the songs for families, up on the stage, a most beautiful sight. 100 kids singing dancing making joyful noise to Jesus. My Plum was front and center and giving it all he had. For the first song. The second song got a little less, the third saw his face close to crumpling into tears. I approached a leader, asked them to maybe pull him back a bit, they did, he asked to come to my lap. His joyful noise was done.
We thought he was tired. We thought the long week of late nights had caught up with him. Later he told his mama that someone in the audience was looking at him weirdly, made him think they were laughing at him. He lost his nerve. He forgot he was singing for Jesus and became self-conscious, remembered just that he was singing. He sought out the security of grandma’s lap, a place where he always knows exactly who he is.
On Sunday all the children gave a repeat performance and Plum said, “For the seventeenth time, no, I am not going up there.” Instead, he wanted to go up to the front, on the floor, again on my lap, to watch his friends. He wanted to be as close as he could without risking actually touching the stage, supporting his friends without giving up his security. We sat on the floor, his purple blankie on his lap, and rocked to the music. It was enough.
I am convinced that whoever was looking at him that evening, whoever he locked eyes with, meant no harm. I feel sure there was no judgment. How could there be at this amazing child glorifying God? Yet his feelings, his perception say otherwise and were enough to shut him down. As we struggle through some hard times ahead and I look back at other challenging times, I empathize with his feelings of being judged. Feeling vulnerable, exposed, convinced strangers are thinking the worst. How many times was I wrong, how many times did I unnecessarily retreat? I didn’t trust God enough to stand up, sing my song. Finally, I have and it has changed my world. I found my voice and sing a new song each day, no longer repeating old verses, afraid of the light landing on me.
We are facing a crisis, a shifting foundation, a forced look at identity. My Chef feels truly exposed, vulnerable. Yet we have responsibilities to our church family, tasks and committees that require our presence. God is so smart, to be sure we have to get back up on the stage still. This one though comes with that supportive lap, those loving arms that provide the security we desperately seek to keep singing. Our voices mingle with friends who will carry ours as it gets weak, when we lose the words, forget the moves. We are so blessed to know we are covered in grace, we are loved, we are included and valued for who we are and not just what we do. Even if we chose to sit out a song or two, I feel confident we will be sitting with friends. That is just who this church is. Plum will grow to know that in his years ahead of Vacation Bible School. He still sings the songs for us, the message is the same. He knows he wants to follow Jesus. He knows Jesus gives him power, light in the darkness, hope, courage. I am content to have him on my lap, singing to me songs of faith. He tells me Jesus gives us direction. He is a very smart little 5 year old and I am choosing to believe him. We will not retreat this time, we will keep singing.