What My Daughter Taught Me About Identity
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Sometimes the best wisdom comes to you when you least expect it. Or when you aren’t looking for it.
A few years ago, I approached a mom from Eliana’s dance studio. She wasn’t someone I knew, but I had been watching her daughter dance for years. I simply wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed watching her daughter dance, how her dancing just drew me in when I watched her. The mother’s response certainly wasn’t what I expected.
“I think it’s because she loves Jesus so much.”
It wasn’t until this past year that I am just starting to understand what she meant.
One of the hardest parts of leaving to travel has been taking a break from dancing for Ellie. She loves it. It’s her passion. She wants to dance in the future as a career or as a ministry. Taking your daughter away from that for an indefinite period of time is certainly not easy.
In the past year, we’ve watched her grow tremendously as a dancer. Every year we see growth, but this past year, we noticed something different in her dancing. A maturity and a passion. A desire to not only dance and learn technique, but a desire to dance as an expression of worship.
That growth has coincided with her growth in her relationship with the Lord.
I’m so thankful for the youth group from the church we left. For our pastors. For the speakers who came in and spoke into her life. For the teachers she had on Sunday morning. For the friends who she misses every day.
Because of all these people and her own pursuits, we’re starting to see her relationship with the Lord become more personal. It’s becoming her own. And it's coming out in her dancing.
I remember the Sunday morning when we were singing in church and she leans over and whispers to me, “Mom, I just want to dance right now.”
“So dance,” I told her.
She kicked off her shoes and worshiped in dance. And after that morning, she didn’t hesitate to dance during worship when she felt the Spirit move.
How I long for that kind of freedom.
As a parent, I think it’s easy to want to see your child as “the best.” The best athlete, the best writer, the best speaker, the best musician, the best fill-in-the-blank. The best dancer, perhaps.
We use social media to brag on our kids. We share their artwork, their medals, their awards, their acceptance letters. And really, it's just because we love them so much and want to honor them for their hard work. I get it.
I think many of us parents recognize, though, that our kids aren’t “the best.” And so we encourage them to “be the best they can be.” Which isn’t a bad sentiment. We should always encourage our kids to do the best they can at whatever they are working towards, right?
But what if it’s not about being the best or even trying to be the best they can be?
What if it’s just about loving Jesus?
I love writing. But I’m not the best writer.
I love parenting (most days). But I’m not the best parent.
I love homeschooling. But there are far better homeschooling mamas out there.
Do you see what happens when I do this?
There’s an instant comparison of me to someone else. I look at my writing, my parenting, my homeschooling, and any other gift God’s given me in comparison to someone else.
Even if I try to be the best writer, parent, homeschooling mama, etc… that I can be, I’m still focusing on myself.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put our best foot forward and work as though working for the Lord. Because we should. Absolutely.
I'm not saying we shouldn't give our kids lessons and classes and allow them to compete on teams and do all the things that build and shape their talent. Because we should. We should work to get better at the things we love.
But what if the focus wasn’t us at all?
What if it’s just about Jesus?
I have an idea. A radical notion that came to me while I watched my daughter get a dancing fix at Dance Revolution a few months ago.
The idea isn’t original at all. But the connection I made while watching my daughter caused me to rethink the way I talk to her and my other kids and support the things they want to do in life.
What if instead of comparing our kids and ourselves with being “the best” or even “the best we can be,” we instead focus on letting them love Jesus.
Do I want my daughter to be a great dancer? Of course.
Do I want her to love Jesus? Clearly.
Can she do both? Absolutely.
But if you ask me which is the most important? I’m going to go with loving Jesus.
What if the focus of our families is loving Jesus? What if we show our kids that when they love Jesus first, He becomes their identity. That they recognize all they have is because He gave it to them, all they love is because He first loved them. What if He's so much inside them, so much filling their lives with his love, that He flows from everything they do?
What if they care more about what He thinks than what others think? That whether they're "the best" at what they do or whether they're just "doing their best," it doesn't even matter because He sees them the same?
What if they were so filled with Him, that there was nothing to do except to have Him come out of them?
What if He comes out in their juggling, in their running, in their crafting, in their dancing, in their sports, in their writing, in their speaking, or in that thing your child loves?
This is what I want for my kids more than anything. More than them being happy. More than them being "the best" at something. I want them to understand that when Jesus is first, the rest will flow from their love for Him.
And if I'm being honest, I think our kids need to see this from us first. I am humbly learning it from my daughter. But she needs me to reinforce it. To model it for her in my own life. To talk her through it when it's hard.
I dare say our kids need us to lead the way. They need to understand that loving Jesus is more important than any role or any team or any meet or competition or any college or any job will ever be.
Our kids need to see us love Jesus. They need to see Him pour out of us. They need to see our identify firmly planted in Him.
I can’t tell you I know what that looks like. I mean, I’m trying, sure. But to say that people look at me and say, “Yes, there’s someone who loves Jesus. It pours out from her in everything she does.” Nope, I’m not there yet.
But I can be. And so can my kids.
And so can you and yours.