When it comes to preschool ballet recitals, my family is a well-oiled machine. Everyone has their job. Christy and the grandmas get the girls ready. I go early, pick up a bouquet of flowers, and save us all seats.
I’m always there when doors open to make sure we get the best spot. The other dads pretend like it’s not a competition, but I know better. Every guy understands that the measure of true masculinity is landing prime parking and seating for your family. This hunting-gathering instinct is hard-wired into male DNA.
I pulled up downtown at 5:30 p.m., just as the doors opened, and sprinted for the theater, barely edging out an elderly couple for five chairs in the second row. Some over-achiever had beaten me to the front. All in all, though, the second row was still an admiral position.
Dancers didn’t arrive until 6:00, and the recital didn’t start until 7:00. That meant I had plenty of time to sit back and relish my victory as the less punctual fathers settled for the third row and back.
I glanced at a program I’d grabbed on the way in, and that’s when I noticed a problem. The recital actually started at 6:30, a half an hour earlier than we’d thought. No big deal. The girls should be there by 6:00 so that just meant less time to wait.
My wife called right at 6:00 with the bad news.
“We’re here,” she said, “but we forgot Emma’s wand.” Icy panic gripped my chest. All of the ballerinas had fairy wands. It was integral to the dance. She would be the only girl on stage without a wand, and I was afraid that not only would it ruin her big moment, but it might actually throw her off. We’d missed a few rehearsals because of vacation, and she was struggling to learn all of the choreography.
We had to have that wand. The only problem was that we lived a solid 20 minutes away without traffic.
“We don’t have time to go home,” I said. “This thing starts in 30 minutes!” I looked back to the program and realized there were a couple of dances before her number that might just buy me enough time. “Wait,” I said. “I’m going for it. I think I can make it.”
I charged out the door, blowing by my family in the hallway. I yelled over my shoulder, “Don’t worry. Daddy’s going for the wand!” I had to make it. I just had to.
Once I shot off in my Honda, everything blurred, kind of like in Star Wars when the Millenium Falcon went into hyperspace. I didn’t actually break any speed limits because I knew I couldn’t afford to get pulled over, but I drove more strategically than I ever had in my life.
When one lane slowed, I whipped over to the other, drafting and slingshotting around cars like a NASCAR veteran. I spotted holes in traffic, three or four cars ahead, and took advantage of every opening. I prayed my way through dozens of green lights, begging God to clear my path like the Red Sea.
I made it home in record time, grabbed the wand and headed back. I hit every light perfectly until I got back downtown. One block away from the theater I sat at a red light for what felt like an hour. I was ready to just throw it into park in the middle of the street and run for it. I knew I only had minutes left, if that.
Finally the light turned and I slid into the parking lot, leapt up two flights of stairs and burst into the back of the auditorium clutching the pink fairy wand like the Olympic torch. I felt like an ancient Greek warrior who’d made it through enemy lines to deliver a message to my commander. Gasping and wheezing, I stumbled to the second row and handed my daughter the wand.
“Here, baby, Daddy made it. I have your wand!”
She looked at me and smiled.
“It’s okay, Daddy,” she said. “Miss Rebecca has an extra one.”
Miss Rebecca has an extra one? Miss Rebecca has an extra one? Okay, so I did all of that for nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was supposed to be a hero, but instead I was just some weird guy rushing around downtown Lexington with a frilly fairy wand.
But then I realized that sometimes acts of love are like that. You can’t control the outcome or how other people will respond, but you do it anyway. You make the effort. You give the gift. You serve and sacrifice to show people they matter. Even if it sometimes feels pointless.
The truth is, though, love is never pointless. Even if the gift is rejected, it always reflects the heart of the giver. If not, God would be the biggest chump in the universe. After all, He created people to be in relationship with Him, but He also gave us the free will to blow Him off.
Maybe that’s why the Bible says that love never fails. It always hopes. It always perseveres. The simple act of sacrificing for the good of others makes me more like my maker. Some days the sacrifice will be needed. Some days it won’t. But if I’m in the habit of living a lifestyle of love, I’m much more likely to come through when it counts.