I talked about identity and passion in my last post, but I had a real-time opportunity to learn more about trust.
We have, for years now, enrolled our children in a dance program close to home. I shared on my other blog (see here) that the center is not marketed as a Christian center, but the instructors are Christian—or I should say more specifically, I know that they are church goers. Though it’s not my idea of a picture-perfect environment for us, the benefits of being there far outweigh what I’ve seen as disadvantages thus far. At least, that’s what I thought until this week.
This is an exciting time for everyone at the dance center. Costumes are arriving, and the final numbers are coming together. The place simply buzzes with anticipation, and our kids are no different than anyone else’s. They came home modeling costume after costume (they dance a combined 18 times!), and we all enjoyed the fashion show. Then came the turning tide when our oldest daughter began to talk about the conversation over the advanced jazz costume, a simple black cropped pair of pants with a black button-down shirt. The problem is that the instructor decided that the girls’ shirts should be half unbuttoned, baring midriffs. Though I’m not as conservative as some about the kids’ dress, we don’t do bare midriffs around here. Moreover, I didn’t appreciate the instructor telling the girls—14 and 15 years of age (with my 11-year-old son in the room)—that it “looked hot” that way. The salt in the open wound was that, when my oldest immediately voiced her concern, saying that “my mom will not go for this,” the instructor belittled the concern, stating that the girls need to grow comfortable with their bodies.
To say the least, I was livid. The mom in me wanted to call immediately and raise Hades, but the instructor had left the kids with “tell your parents not to call me while I think about it and make a decision next week.” It didn’t help that my husband and I were at different places with this. I was disgusted by what I saw as a direct attack on the values we try to instill in our children; he was torn somewhere between thinking I’m too protective and wanting to not risk straying from what’s conventional. Walking alone is tough, but my spirit absolutely would not rest. Okay, I thought, I’ll give her chance, and more importantly, this gave me a chance to pray. Reflecting back on this whole incident, it’s amazing how prayer becomes the thing we do after we’ve exhausted our natural resources.
I spent all of Thursday obsessed with this scenario, knowing that my next encounter with this same instructor would be late Friday afternoon. My imagination had walked miles, from going 15 rounds with the instructor and/ or the school’s owner, to leaving the program, to writing letters to some child advocacy group, to…The more I thought, the madder I got. But each time I grew angry, I remembered one thing: the Lord will perfect all things concerning me. So I talked to God about it—over and over and over. Admittedly, the thought of this encounter overshadowed everything else going on in my life. When the youngest awoke with a swollen eyelid, I agreed with her in prayer that the Lord would heal her, but I spent the day consumed with what might happen. God, I know I have the victory, but what will be the path?
Something else happened as I began to pray. I realized that not only was this a chance for God to show up on my behalf, but it was also a chance to minister. So my anger gave way, at least in part, to grace and mercy. There’s a point that I needed to make, but I also wanted to leave her with something to think about. I began to pray about words—words that pierce, words that resonate, words that move. So a significant portion of my mental energy was spent crafting my words. How do I state my convictions and yet not crush someone else’s spirit? How do I lift up Jesus without putting her down?
When the time came to go to practice, everything that could go wrong did. Our children were late, and the young lady who catches a ride with us ran even later. I was still searching for words, and seeking wisdom on whether to use them at all (another revelation that came through prayer), as I drove. She said to give her a week; I wanted to give the Lord a week. Besides, I know my tongue would have cut like a knife. I couldn’t help that piercing stare, though; it just wouldn’t leave. When I saw her, and we spoke politely, as if nothing’s wrong (minus my stare–grrrrr). I kept thinking, why don’t you say something? But I’m learning each day to trust God more and more, so miraculously enough, I just spoke and otherwise kept my mouth shut.
As a related digression, my oldest is the team captain for the group, and a part of her responsibility is to lead the group’s stretches and warm-up activities. Though normally the instructor selects the music, my daughter will sometimes bring her own selections to accompany the kids’ stretching. Like me, her musical tastes are eclectic. Yet today, ironically enough, she chose to warm up to the upbeat, soulful inspiration of gospel artists Mary, Mary. I love how God insists on being glorified. I rejoiced even more when I heard the instructor play the same tunes for her second class; apparently she enjoyed what she heard, too.
So, at the end of the day, how’d this bare midriff fiasco turn out? Well, my daughter was perusing through a brand-new list of costuming details (for lack of a better word)—how to wear your hair, what color tights, hats, gloves, etc. When she saw the jazz dance requirements, she turned to me and said, “Look, Mom. It says I can wear my leotard up under the shirt.” I moved to see it for myself, and I simply hugged my daughter and said, “Look at God.” I’m still looking, and all I can say is, “Wow.”