Friday, April 27, 2012


1 c : progressive development : evolution

Growth can look very different from one person to the next.  What comes naturally to me might be huge growth for you - and vice versa.

Last Saturday, A danced her first dance en pointe.  She has been taking ballet for six years and has worked hard to be able to do this.  It was amazing to sit there in the audience and watch my child do something so impressive.  I wasn't the only one impressed.  As other parents stopped me to congratulate us, I couldn't help but think that this was nothing to do with me.  I merely drive her around.  She does all of the hard work at the barre and on the dance floor.  She's the one who has grown from a six year in a lamb costume to a twelve year old looking very much like a woman-to-be.

The next day as we sat in the pew preparing to go take communion, A peered around me.  She was checking to see whether her favorite priest was serving on our side of the church or the other side.  I pointed out that he was on the other side and that she could just get in that line and then circle around the rear of the nave to get back to our pew. 

"That's OK," she whispered back to me, "I'll just take it over here with you guys."

"A," I said gently but insistently, "if your heart wants to take communion from Father D, go over there."

She did and I was so proud of her.  Breaking that little unwritten rule about taking communion on the left when you are seated on the left was huge growth for my rule-following firstborn.  It was growth for her because she listened to the desire of her heart and followed - even though it meant stepping a bit outside of the lines.  For A, this step away from conformity is almost bigger growth than dancing en pointe.  Dance comes naturally to her.  Breaking the rules does not.

Earlier this week, I read a blog post that resulted in a light bulb moment for me.  While I subscribe to the blog that had this post, the last two weeks have been so busy for me that I've been skimming most of Jimmie's posts about writing.  For some reason, I took the time to read this one more slowly.  That was surely God's prompting because as I read her assertion that writing with a formula eases the cognitive load of writing, I saw clearly why my daughter B does not like to write.  B detests formulas.  She wants to do everything her own way, putting her own spin on the tried and true.  Yet she is not a fan of hard work.  B is a quick learner and most things come very easily to her, so she resists having to work hard to acquire something.  So we've been trapped in this cycle where B doesn't want to follow a formula for writing (which would make it easier), but she doesn't want to work hard (and do it her own way).

Yesterday, B needed to write an artist's statement for an art show next week.  I saw my chance and I took it. I sat down with B and had her read the blog post.  Then I told her that this post made me understand why she doesn't like writing.  I pointed out to her that there is one area of her life where she is willing to both follow the rules and work hard: piano.  B has been taking piano for 17 months and she will come home from a lesson with a song that is hard to play.  It might sound rough the first few times she plays it through.  But she persists and within 2 or 3 days, she can play it well.  By the time she goes back for her next lesson a week later, we've all heard her not only play the song, but play it fast, slow and with beats in between.  She uses the formula of the composer first and then she does it her way.

"Could you try this with your writing?" I asked.  "Could you try using the formula on this print out and see if it makes your writing come easier?  After you use the formula a few times, you'll be able to change it like you do with your songs."

Amazingly, she agreed.  She's written two paragraphs so far and they've come easier and been better quality than her writing has been of late.

As you read this, do you see how growth for these two daughters of mine is completely different?  A needs encouragement to listen to her heart and break the rules occasionally.  B knows her own heart and mind so well that she needs to see the value of rules as a way for training us and equipping us.

I love this.  I love seeing them grow and I love that it doesn't look at all the same.  I don't love that the world (and often the church) will tell you that B needs to grow, but that A is on the right track.  Because they both need growth.  A is sometimes easier to parent because she does follow the rules, but she does so without understanding or questioning the rules.  So what happens when she is faced with a system of rules that are not set up to help her, but to harm her?  She must learn to think for herself.  B needs growth as well, but not because she's a rule-questioner.  She needs growth because all people need growth.

Where do you fall on this spectrum?  What safety zone do you stand within that the world might tell you is just the place to be, but that is keeping you from embracing the great freedom available to you if you grow?

It is my hope and prayer that A is not going to turn into an anarchist, nor B a conformist.  I feel certain that it is ballet's structure and rules that make A enjoy it and thrive.  B will be a better musician if she continues to listen with her heart and not just her ears.  I hope they will continue to be who God made them to be - but I believe he made them to be more than just a rule-follower and a rule-breaker.  He made them to be a bit of both - and to learn from each other's way of doing things.

This spring, during a season replete with growth, look for ways to stretch and grow towards freedom.

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