A Reflection of God
by Jenifer Ringer
Jenifer Ringer was at the height of her profession. A principal dancer with New York City Ballet, and a promising career ahead. And then it all fell apart. She nearly drowned in the deep despair of eating disorders, watched her weight fluctuate, and was fired from her company. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle. Jenifer credits her faith in Christ not only for her recovery and healing, but for the marriage she longed for, her two precious children, and her dramatic comeback.
From Dancing Through It:
“You should come back just for you. Not to dance professionally or anything. I think it would be good for you to just dance and move to music. I don’t care how you dance or what you look like, and you can take the class for free as my guest. Just come back.”
I gave Nancy a very non-committal answer, but over the next couple of days I could not get the idea out of my head. Maybe it would feel good to dance again with no one pressuring me to do it. And since I was no longer a part of a company, I did not have to worry about what anyone thought about my appearance. My body was now my own.
A few days later, I walked into Nancy’s classroom at Steps. I was suddenly terrified to enter the studio and had to talk myself into actually going through with the class. I had to remind myself that I was free from anyone else’s judgment, that I was a Daughter of the Lord, and that I was just going in to take a ballet class for fun, for me. But, I still had the remnants of the shame I had been dancing with for years.
The class was like a renewing rain. Even the center work felt good, despite the fact that I was out of shape and could not dance anything very well. It was simply wonderful to dance to music again and I found a freedom in the familiar structure of a ballet class. But, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. As comfortable as I was growing in my new regular life, in a ballet setting I could not see my reflection without hearing the old voices of disgust and condemnation ringing through my head. So, my solution was to just not look so that I could enjoy dancing again.
After a few days of this, I had a moment in the middle of Nancy’s class that was a culmination of all the healing that had slowly been taking place in my life. Nancy was giving the adagio combination in the center and I was in the middle of a group of dancers trying to learn the sequence. The dancers in front of me shifted just enough so that I could see myself in the mirror; I locked eyes with my reflection.
I stared at myself for an uncomfortable moment or two, immediately going into self-hating dancer mode…to find out what was wrong or bad or ugly. We dancers try to perfect the shapes and lines of our body and feel unsatisfied if our feet aren’t arched enough or our legs aren’t high enough or our arms aren’t well shaped. I know some dancers who were told, ridiculously, that their necks were too short. They wear their hair high to try to disguise the “problem”, but I am sure that most of the time when they look in the mirror, they think, “Short neck.” Me, I stared at my hips and thighs and arms and waist, disgusted by them and ashamed that I had even walked into a ballet class.
But then, like a golden light, a thought fell over me: You are beautiful just the way you are, like this, right now. It was not my thought. It must have come from God. But I saw the truth in it, because I realized that my beauty came not from my body but from the fact that I was a Child of God, redeemed and forgiven. My appearance was not important. I could allow myself to be in this body, exactly the way it was, and feel beautiful and loved by my Savior who had died for me and for all the things about myself that I hated. I could accept God’s forgiveness and also forgive myself for falling and failing and self-destroying.
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