Some of my favorite childhood memories involve singing in our church’s Junior Choir. I love to sing, but it wasn’t just the singing I loved. Saturday morning practice was a time to be with friends, and we engaged in as much fun and shenanigans as we could get away with (not much has changed at choir practice).
Since I was the shortest choir member, I was assigned the shortest choir gown. Even so, it was a little long for me. Most gowns hit just below the knees or mid-calf. Mine was more formal, almost floor length. To avoid the spectacle of dozens of kids tripping up the four steps at the front of the church, our director taught us to gather the front of our gowns in one hand and lift them a little as we approached the steps.
But one day, I didn’t lift my gown quite high enough. As I negotiated the first step, my foot caught the hem of my gown. But I couldn’t just stop. Someone might notice my misstep. I figured if I went up the next step with the left foot, the right foot would release the gown, and all would be well. Unfortunately, my left foot caught more of the gown. It pulled on my neck, bending me slightly forward. Another step, more gown under my feet, more bending. There was no way to get it out from under my feet. But I had to keep going. There was only one more step. Then I would be on flat ground and could fix the problem. But that last step was too much. I had nowhere to go but down. Hard. After rolling around for a few seconds, I was able to unhitch my feet from the gown. With a little help from the director, I popped back up and took my seat in the pew, hoping no one noticed.
Of course, everyone noticed. It was hard not to with a kid on the elevated chancel area rolling around in a bright red gown. At least, being the shortest, I was at the back of the line, with only the director behind me, so there wasn’t a domino effect. I tried not to make eye contact with any of the other choir kids. But I knew they were laughing. Our director, sitting next to me, was trying stifle her giggles, but she was struggling.
You better believe when we got up to sing, I hoisted that gown high enough to make it impossible for my foot to catch any of it. From that day on, I always over-gathered my gown when going up or down steps. I still do it when I’m wearing a longish dress. Thankfully, our choir doesn’t wear gowns anymore.
At times, we don’t realize how much trouble we’re in until it’s too late. But sometimes even when we know we’ve made a mistake or sinned, we keep going, thinking we can fix it ourselves. Maybe it’s not something sinful. Maybe it’s something like depression or anxiety or some fear that paralyzes us. Things tend to have a snowball effect, and soon we’re in too deep to get back on our feet.
Most of us have to come to the end of ourselves before we stop destructive behavior and make a change. God is always there waiting for us to give up our feeble attempts to make things right and extending His mercy and grace. God also gives us friends, counselors, and doctors when what is affecting us is beyond our control. These, too, are expressions of His mercy and grace. When we fall, no matter how hard we land, we are never alone in our struggles. Maybe we need to just stop and ask for help.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3 NIV