I attended my first dance yesterday, and not with my wife. (She knows that I own the distinction of being so uncoordinated in my footwork that I failed marching in military leadership school) I was accompanied by the most special 7-year-old girl I know, my daughter.
I can’t really convey the intensity of the fish-out-of-water experience that I was having as we pulled up. Dances are not my thing. Actually, socializing, in general, is not my thing, but you do what you must to make the ones you love happy. Walking toward the front door, we passed a man in a custom suit getting out of a two hundred thousand dollar Mercedes SUV. It made my bargain khakis and ten-year-old Ford look quite rustic in comparison. It was clear that he had a message to send, and a social order to impress upon those in attendance.
We started the dance with the Steven Curtis Chapman song “Cinderella,” a song that I generally avoid listening to, on account of its ability to turn even the hardest of hearts into a bowl of quivering Jell-O. (Which can be somewhat inconvenient in a public setting) Still, its words set me to thinking. As we stood out on the dance floor rocking from one foot to the other in a way that might be considered dancing, (If one were to be liberal with the definition) it hit me how different the ecstatic ballerina holding my hand saw things. In her mind, I was the most important man in the room, without contest. Custom Suit wasn’t even in the running. The weight of that burden caught me and took away my breath for a moment. How important is it that I handle such unquestioned admiration with care!
I never set out to be a role model for young children, especially not the little dancer in my arms with glitter in her hair, and a look of absolute rapture on her face. It happens, and before we catch our breaths enough to realize what is happening, it’s all over. This moment, captured in my mind, is fleeting, never to return. Each day my little girl is a bit older, each day her problems get a little more grown up, each moment she is a little bit closer to walking out of my arms and into the world, where my position as the most important man in the room is a little bit shakier.
For that time, she is watching, learning, absorbing what I say and do, my attitudes, my successes, and my failures. She learns from me what a man should be, and if she walks into womanhood not knowing. It’s my fault. I will try to teach her as much as I can, to explain everything from the hypostatic union to what a car alternator does, but many of the most important things I can’t teach her with words. She will learn them in moments of silence, and at times when I don’t even know she is paying attention. That realization is enough to drop me to my knees in humility.
I know that across this nation there are countless little girls who will reach adulthood without the privilege of a father who will go make a fool of himself in public just to see the sparkle of delight in a little princess’s eyes. More devastatingly, they don’t have a father who cares enough to try to be worthy of the admiration she’s heaped upon him. These men stand like empty, crumbling, structures. Walls that never protected, pillars that never supported a shelter from storms. Big, tall, and strong as they were, they never fulfilled the purpose for which they were intended. They are a disgrace to themselves, and a tragedy for their little girls. To me, that is an unthinkable destiny – to look into the smoldering ashes of my child’s life and to see my own face formed out of the smoke.
Last night was one the fastest two hours of my life. I am seven years into the fastest eighteen years of my life.
Pray with me, that by all of the grace that can be mustered, I will make it count.