My oldest daughter, Grace, dances beautifully. Every time I watch her she amazes me more. That isn’t just a proud father talking. I’ve had other people…dads…rough, football loving, never-been-to-a-ballet-until-they-had-a-little-girl dads tell me how much they enjoy watching Grace dance. Anyone who has seen her understands why. She exudes a combination of strength and beauty that defies the modern denigration of all things feminine.
Recently, at her final show with South Carolina Christian Dance Theatre (SCCDT), I had the honor of presenting her to the audience as a graduate as well as the opportunity of thanking her teachers…especially the company director Cynthia Dewar…for all they have done for her over the past decade.
Along with mentioning Grace’s excellence as an artist, I talked about the quality of her character. Although we are a hard headed bunch, Grace has what matters most for virtue…a tender heart. She loves deeply and feels injustice against the weak profoundly. She hates to see suffering in anyone or anything. And those aren’t just grand ideals that come out in Facebook posts. She lives out compassion in the hard places…like day to day interaction with five younger siblings. The evidence was on stage with me…her younger siblings who volunteered to work back stage and do not like being in front of people asked to stand with us that night to honor her.
In that context I thanked her instructors for their contribution to her life and character…not just her art. They have poured into her in ways that have more than paid for any investment we have made in SCCDT over the past ten years. The return on our investment is beautiful and eternal.
Furthermore, I went on to thank not just the main instructors, but the whole family at SCCDT…a very remarkable place that has sent out some incredible young women into the world. I spoke to the SCCDT family, thanking them for letting us be a part of God’s work because so many have contributed so much beauty to our lives…and to the lives of so many others. And we should never undervalue the importance of beauty. Beauty has the ability to stir the longing for God even in those who do not believe. As C. S. Lewis once said, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty comes from.”
Even and especially when times seem dark, as they do now, God uses beauty to reach those who are far from him. This can happen because as G K Chesterton said it, “there is a road from the eye to the heart that doesn’t go through the intellect.” For example, iIn the 1970’s and 80’s soviet-block countries began to see conversions among the elite because of the beauty of Christ discovered in the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. And in recent decades many typically close-minded Japanese have been brought to Christ through the beauty of J S Bach’s music.
However there was something related to the point of character that I forgot to say in the emotion of the moment the other night–perhaps for the best in the context of that moment, but it is something that ought to be said.
I intended to note that while I love to hear compliments about Grace’s dancing abilities, it can be difficult to know how to take compliments about her very genuine and evident character (really in all my kids old enough to show it). Perhaps I feel this way because while we’re all very aware that I have nothing to do with Grace’s dancing abilities, people often make the mistake of attributing far too much of a child’s behavior directly to the parents. Don’t get me wrong, parenting matters and we’ve tried our best and prayed a lot, but in the end I have no doubt that we’ve been blessed by six amazing kids who are quite clearly God’s workmanship.
Yet, sometimes when people notice the good behavior of my kids, their praise brings with it a request for advice…advice which I am hesitant to give because the longer I parent the less I fee like I know what I’m doing exactly.
Never-the-less, there is one piece of parenting advice I give without hesitation:
Find your SCCDT.
I do not simply mean keep your kids involved in organized activities and busy for business sake. That is counter productive.
Rather, I make the point that parents should find those other godly adults who will invest in your kids with a love that comes from God.
We have certainly found such people at SCCDT.
Whatever we as parents have done for Gracie, we could not have done it without the support of family, our church, and SCCDT. Cynthia, David, and all of their team have poured into Grace in ways that we as parents can never repay. Grace is God’s artwork, but they have been integral to her formation, and we are thankful.