They stood out from the small crowd gathered around a little stage in the middle of the Oxford County (Maine) Fair. First, they had no visible rain-gear; neither ponchos nor umbrellas. In addition, they were the only two standing on the small, square, black patch of asphalt between two sets of bleachers. My wife and I sat on one set of bleachers. Three others sat across the asphalt on the other bleachers. This couple stood, alone in the rain, each wearing the widest of smiles.
It wasn’t raining when my wife and I arrived at the fairgrounds. It had been one of those days where both clouds and forecast were threatening. There had been occasional, brief cloud-bursts, which had served to keep the crowds to a minimum, but the rain appeared to be holding off.
“Have any of the shows been cancelled?” I asked as we pulled onto the grounds.
“No, none that we’ve been told about.” Said the gate attendant, who took our money and directed us toward the spot to park our car. Though it was the heart of the evening, the parking lot was lightly populated. We made our way into the fairgrounds and, eventually, found our way to the proper venue.
The bleacher seats were wet from prior cloudbursts, but we’d come from Wal-Mart with extra plastic bags, “just in case.” As we sat down, the MacDonald sisters, Cassie and Maggie from Nova Scotia, Canada, were warming up. A gentleman approached the garbage can, near our bleachers, and retrieved a large piece of card board. He located the dry section he’d been searching for and sat down next to my wife.
“Have you ever heard these two play?” He queried.
“No,” replied my wife, “We’ve come to hear the next group.”
“Neither have I,” said the man seated on card board, “But I grew up in their hometown. I know their family.” Pointing to the bleachers, across the way, he said, “That’s their mum, over there. I met her earlier, this afternoon.”
As the man pointed out the mother, she took it for a wave. She waved back and motioned him to move over there and to sit beside her. He said, “Goodbye” and walked across the asphalt as the sisters began playing. It wasn’t long after that when I elbowed my wife.
“Look at those two,” I said, pointing to the man and wife who’d just walked in front of us. “They’ll be dancing before too long,” I predicted.
There was just something about them. Something more than the wide smiles they each wore, that said that they were there to have fun; rain or no rain. He was tall and slender with a grey pony-tail hanging down between his shoulders. She was the same age as he, but in better physical shape. Her shorts revealed some calf-muscles an Olympic sprinter would have admired.
As these two stood there, the MacDonald sisters began to serve up their brand of Celtic goodness. Cassie began with a spry tune on her fiddle accompanied by Maggie’s splendid work at the piano. They were playing reels originally composed for bagpipe. As the reels grew more wilder, the clouds must have noticed, because what was a gentle mist turned into a pummeling downpour.
The couple on the asphalt turned to seek shelter from the storm, moved off a few steps, but then the music caught them. First she returned, and then he followed her back to their spot in front of the stage. Having called them back, the music began to take hold of them. She started rhythmically bobbing at the knees. His feet were shuffling in time with the tune. Before long, they were full-on dancing.
They danced like that for the entire hour of that set. They danced through reels and jigs; through pelting rain with lightning and thunder. They danced and moved as though it seemed they’d not a care in the world. And when it was over, they stood before center-stage with cheering adulation for these two sisters who’d make it all worth while.
My wife and I were enjoying the same performance from a very different perspective. Sitting on Wal-Mart bags covering rain-soaked bleachers, each of us found it difficult to clap whilst holding umbrellas. Eventually the rain, dripping off from my umbrella, soaked my jeans enough at the knee that I could slap my pants to make a sound that was but a poor imitation of clapping. Despite hope, I realized that with every crack of thunder my chances of seeing the second group were washing away. There was not a smile on my face, but rather, a look of grave concern. The MacDonald sisters were very good, but the group that I came to hear wasn’t going to get to play. I was sad.
Looking back on that night now, two weeks later, I think I’m beginning to understand that dancing couple. They were there that night to have a little fun, and they weren’t going to allow some nasty weather to spoil that for them. They were in the exact situation as myself, but they came to it with a different perspective. Whereas I was fearing what I was going to miss out on, they were enjoying what was there, in that moment.
I wonder just how much joy we might miss out on due to our fears? The Bible says that God’s kingdom consists of “righteousness, peace and joy” (Romans 14:17) Now, I don’t know if the dancing couple that I witnessed were full of joy due to their Christian faith or from some other source. Either way, their pure exuberance put to shame this believer’s concern and sadness. Christians should strive to be a better witness no matter the circumstances. I stand corrected.
What about you? How often has fear stolen your joy? How might you change that? I suggest a simple Bible Study on the word “fear.” See what God has to say on the subject. It just might surprise you.
Praying that our joy far exceeds our fear,