For many years before having children I taught dance full time at a ballet studio in Toronto. When my first son was born, I took a break from teaching and didn’t return to studio life, even part time, until my second son was almost a year old. During those three years away from teaching and with the busyness of babies, I didn’t do much directly related to the dance world. But then when I returned to the studio three years and two children later, I immediately realized that, in some ways at least, I had become a better dance teacher.
Becoming a mother had made me a better teacher.
Here’s why: prior to being a mother myself, though I always loved my students and believed each one was valuable, and though I of course intellectually realized that each student I taught was the daughter of parents, it wasn’t until after I had children myself that I fully understood just how valuable each one of these young dancers was to their mother and their father.
Before having kids, I was more easily annoyed with annoying children. Before having my own, I wasn’t as quick to search for qualities that made each child special. Quite simply, before, I wasn’t able to look at each child and, during both easy and challenging moments alike, think to myself, This is someone’s beloved daughter. She could be mine. I will treat her as I hope someone would treat my very own child.
Becoming a mother made me a better teacher because I found myself valuing each child more—especially in the tough moments—and looking at them not only as my student but as some mother's beloved, cherished child.
Life is often organic like this, isn’t it? Something shifts in one part of our experience and, without even realizing it, another part of us grows and changes into something better than it was before.
In the dance studio just as in life, not all children are equally talented or equally enjoyable to teach. That’s just the way it is. But though not equally talented or enjoyable, all children are equally valuable because their worth is not connected to their flexibility, their turn out, their feet, or their cuteness. Their value is connected to who they are despite all these other things.
And this is why becoming a mother not only made me a better ballet teacher but also a better Christian.
When we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re not looking at people we should love because of their gracefulness, talent, ability, likability, or personality; we love them because they’re adopted and beloved children of the living God.
There have been moments of being a pastor’s wife when I’ve gotten annoyed with some of God’s kids. Let’s be honest. We all have. Pastor’s wife or not. But something I’ve appreciated, something that has reoriented my heart in those times when I’m annoyed or angry or resentful of others has been Justin’s gentle reminder: Elisha, don’t forget who this person is; this is someone who Christ died for; this is a son, a daughter, God loves; this is a beloved child of your Father; when it doesn’t come naturally, love them because He loves them; don’t forget who they are.
Before I had children of my own, someone once said to me that the quickest way to any parent’s heart is to love their children. Three kids later, and oh how I know this to be true. If you want to love me, love my children.
Our Father says the same.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. ~ 1 John 5:1-2