Oh, my sweet girl. My young, beautiful ballerina.
This week I’ll watch you walk into the studio for hours and hours of rehearsal for your part in next week’s performance of Coppélia. After the final curtain falls, and your muscles are weak and tired, you’ll look for me.
You’ll want to know, Did you see me dance, Momma?
Of course I did.
I love watching you dance. My breath catches, and I don’t trust myself to speak. Salty tears threaten to spill out the corners of my eyes. You will never understand how much I adore witnessing your talents on display.
I love watching you dance.
But lean in close, my sweet girl. Because what I’m about to tell you is one of them most important things you will ever hear from me. Something I want you to stuff into every dark corner of your heart. Something I want you to pull up every moment you feel disappointment well within–moments when you need light. Something I never, ever want you to forget.
I’m already proud of you.
You could miss a step, a beat, an entrance. You could decide to never dance again.
None of those things matter.
Because I’m already proud of you.
I’m not proud of you because you dance beautifully. I’m proud because in order to do so, you work with incredible perseverance and determination.
I’m not proud of you because you make the honor roll. I’m proud of you because you strive towards excellence.
I’m not proud of you because you’re well liked by friends. I’m proud of you because your kind heart draws others to you.
You see, treasured girl, I’m never proud of you because you display a talent or a gifting in certain areas.
I’m proud of you because of who you choose to be.
When I see you welcome the unloveable, face the hard things, get back up after a fall, extend grace to those unkind, embrace challenges, refuse to give up, respect people of all backgrounds, be blind to the color of one’s skin, stand strong in your convictions? When I see these things?
This is when I’m so proud of you I can’t stand still. My joy wells-up and spills out.
Are you a daughter of character? Do you show resilience when you want to give in? Is your heart one that seeks to please God and not man?
Because you will never please man. Humankind will always want more and more and more from you. There is but one heart to please, daughter. And His is the heart that created you and numbered the silky hairs on your sweet head.
I will disappoint you with my humanness. It’s not if but when. His love will never disappoint.
If you only danced for me. If you only made good grades for me. If you were only kind for me. If you only ever chose to do things to make me proud, then when the road becomes difficult and you fail a test or trip on stage or lash out, you will lose your way.
You won’t know who you are.
Never dance for me, Ella-girl. Dance for your Jesus. And dance because you love to spin across the floor on your toes. Never change or mold yourself to fit some kind of person shaped the way you think I want you to be.
Don’t misunderstand, darling. I love to watch you twirl. Your grades make me smile. My heart warms at the friends you call your own.
But my pride in who you are? You can’t gain something you already have.
So when the curtain falls Sunday. When you curtsey. When you smile into the audience. Hear these words from my heart…
I’m already proud of you.