I watched you on Saturday, in that little dance shop in Fort Worth, Texas, when the friendly, excited woman from somewhere up north slipped satin ballet shoes onto your feet. Your brow crinkled and you half smiled as you stood and tried make your way to the barre, oddly hindered by the strange, stiff shoes on your feet. Once you made it there, you stood, holding onto the barre lightly, in your pretty striped dress that makes you look so grown up and looked at yourself in the mirrors. You were finally wearing pointe shoes.
The woman chattered happily as she checked the fit of the shoes. And, then something amazing happened. She stepped back and told you to go up on your toes.
You didn’t hesitate. You immediately popped up onto the toes of those beautiful slippers, and you smiled at your reflection as you held the graceful pose. My heart fluttered inside me.
I remember when you were in first grade and your school held a jump rope competition. You had no idea how to jump rope and you were eliminated in the first five minutes. That very day you came home and dug in your toy box until you found a jump rope I didn’t even know we owned. You took it outside and started practicing. You were determined that you would never again be caught off guard if the occasion called for jumping rope, and in a few months you had taught yourself all kinds of tricks. You spent the entire summer jumping rope all the way around our backyard, and the next year instead of a jump rope competition, they had a basketball shooting competition. You laughed and groaned and shook your head. At least I learned to jump rope, little second grade you said, wise and old in your glittery butterfly t-shirt.
I sat there on Saturday, in that little dance shop, and I watched you at the barre. You looked so calm and determined, standing there impossibly on your toes. You reminded me of that little pigtailed girl who used to skip all over our yard with her jump rope flying.
This week you started junior high school. You are already signing up for everything. I know you are the kind of girl who will run for every office and volunteer for every position. You are a leader. It’s scary for me to even type those words because I understand what it means. It means you have a mind of your own. It means you have a strong will (someday I’ll tell you all about the year you were three). It means that God may call you to do hard things.
If you asked this world to define what a leader is, you would probably hear lots of talk about confidence and intelligence and following your heart. But, Christian leadership is about humility, confidence in Christ and His will, and following His word. See the differences there, sweet girl. If you are going to lead, and I believe you are, lead not from your heart (which the Bible tells us is deceitful and wicked) and not from a desire for recognition and achievement (the Bible tells us that the last will be first and the first will be last), but lead with the sense that God has uniquely gifted you with the desire to serve other people, to teach, to encourage, and to love. Lead knowing that it’s a great honor to represent Christ in all the different realms of your life–not just at church or among your Christian friends. Lead knowing that God may call you to do difficult things, scary things, amazing things. And, above all, lead knowing that He is the one who is really leading.
I will never, throughout all eternity, forget the way you looked on Saturday, standing there in your easy way, perched on your toes like it’s an everyday occurrence. I can’t wait to see you fight to learn how to fly in those shoes, through lots of pain and struggle and determination. I know you will do it because I know you well. This is the strength that God has given you. The resolve, the stubbornness, the plain old guts to do things that you’re not completely sure you can do. I pray that God will prove to you over and over again that you can do all things through Him who gives you strength.
Lead well, my girl, from the palm of His hand. And, don’t ever forget that every bit of the glory belongs to Christ, in your life, in mine, and in all corners of this earth and every galaxy beyond. To Him be the glory forever and ever.