Teaching Our Daughters to Dance
By Vicki Fleming
While vacationing with my family on a southern beach, I watched with fascination as my two-year-old grand daughter stomped and twirled and danced with abandon in the sand. While I was filled with joy to see her spontaneity, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it might last. I work with teenagers, and know all too well that girls do not get to dance with delight for very long. Sadly, happy and energetic young girls too often turn into sullen or frightened teenagers; confused, and losing at a game they feel forced to play. Is there any way to protect the true spirits of our daughters?
I think that the answer is a resounding YES, even knowing that a girl will ultimately make her own choices. My mother and father have literally prayed scripture for me and my family for years. I have seen the fruit of those prayers in my marriage, and in the lives of my children and their spouses. I don’t believe it’s time to wring our hands over the culture. Instead, it’s time to take our stand through faith in Christ’s love! We need to pray that we would have caring hearts, listening ears, and the ability to communicate the love of God to our children – in this conversation, our daughters.
One of the scriptures that my mom and dad bravely prayed over me through my prodigal years, and continue to pray for my children is Ephesians 3:16-20. I am grateful they did not give up! Here is that section of scripture, with our precious daughters in mind.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
Our daughters grow up in a culture, even a Christian culture, in which acceptance is based on an ability to please. Girls feel a need to please parents, teachers, coaches, friends, boyfriends, bosses, and the bullying of social media. The circle just keeps widening. I am afraid that many girls hear little of grace, and the fact that the Lord is so willing to strengthen them through his Spirit, rather than through their best behavior. Even as believers, we often emphasize behavior in a way that inherently suggests that God loves only good little girls. A girl needs to know that she is pursued by a God who is strong enough to fill her with His love, and to hold her; that God will not drop her. She needs to know that God’s love for her is not measured by her behavior. God’s love is eternal, and is shown through Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
I have always loved the way this part of the passage fairly tumbles over itself to explain the vastness of the love of God. Paul seems to cry out that this love is wide and long and, did I mention, high and deep? I must ask myself these questions:
1. Is the love of God the thing I most emphasize to my daughter? Or do I mostly emphasize that she must be pleasing to the people around her?
2. Do I spend as much time and energy making sure she grasps the truth of God’s love, as I do making sure that she is successful?
3. In our home, is love more important than knowledge and success?
4. Do I let her know that she is enough because He, Christ, is enough, and that his love will sustain her no matter what? I believe that this is the girl who will need very few reminders about modesty, etc.
Being full to the brim with the love of God is the only thing that will protect our daughters from a culture which values form over substance, treats sex as a commodity, and insists that image building and conformity lead to love and acceptance.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!”
Yes, we live in a frightening culture, one that seems bent on destroying the innocence and goodness of our children, both sons and daughters. But take heart dear sisters, even if your child is struggling! God is still in the business of doing immeasurably more than all we ask! His power is at work within us – you, me, and our husbands and children. However, just like we are reminded on planes, we must first put on our own oxygen masks before we help the child with us. I cannot emphasize the abundant love of Christ to my daughter if I only know about pleasing others through the limited scope of my own behavior. If I think I am loved only when I am pleasing to those around me, I will inevitably convey this message of control and sadness to my daughter.
We must offer our daughters a glimpse of the God who is our “refuge”, the “strong tower”, the “rock”, and our “gentle shepherd”. I must let her go into the loving arms of a mighty God. That means I will help her know what a real and vital walk with Jesus looks like, by allowing Him to be enough for my own life. I will dance with her in the joy of His love, rather that drawing an incomplete map of how she can get ahead by pleasing the people around her. The real issue is whether or not she has a vital relationship with Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of her faith, not whether she is compliant, agreeable, successful, and likable to the opposite sex.
Do I think we see improved behavior, strength and confidence in a young woman who has been taught that she that she is valued for who she actually is; for her authentic self? Yes. A girl who is taught to value authenticity will be in the best position to walk in truth, when she is nurtured in an environment that invites her to rest in the love of a merciful God. And while I believe that girls who are given tools to discern the true motives of the world will be safer, I am convinced that this happens ONLY in the context of life in Christ and his extravagant love. Otherwise, the siren song of sexuality and peer influence, materialism and success, may well be too strong. Girls who only know how to please others are at high risk of being taken in by the sexual, and drug and alcohol culture of jr.high and high school, or to live in the despair of girls who do not have the bargaining chips to survive teen culture.
My daughter’s first day of public school was when she entered high school. She wanted to swim on a team, play soccer, and be in choir and theater. We knew that she was strong and resilient, with a vital relationship to God. However, we let her know, in no uncertain terms, that we did not intend to lose her. I promised her that if we saw that she was following blindly toward something destructive, that we would come in and get her. She and I still laugh at the visual that brings to mind! And while we were committed to doing that, we knew that her actual safety was connected to her real and lasting understanding of the love of God. She knew who she was in Christ - that her authentic self was celebrated. Incidentally, she became known as that girl - the one who loves people and protects the under-dog. She led, and continues to lead, with strength and integrity…the result of her grandmother’s prayers, I think!
And finally, as we all continue in the journey of learning to live in “the father’s affection”, the endless love of God, and the grace that is ours everyday, may we be encouraged by the truth of Romans 15:13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Lord, please give us the power of Christ to be women of faith and integrity. May we show our daughters (and sons) how to live in the boundless love of our Savior. May we be that beacon in this broken world. Please, let us learn to dance for the sheer joy of our salvation!