I am officially the shortest in my family. I knew the day was fast approaching when I didn’t have to tilt my head downward to make eye contact with my girls. One day, I was kneeling to speak to them; now, I either tiptoe to their height or they bow their faces for a kiss.
Feeling small is familiar. In my elementary school photos, you can find me seated at the first row. And there are definite advantages to being this height. When on a plane, I don’t have to worry about my legs being cramped or knees hitting the seat in front of me. I can easily swing my legs to one side so that the person to my right or left can walk past me without leaving my seat.
I see the world from my vantage point, add a few inches thanks to heels. And it’s fair to say that that’s how the world experiences me. While it’s an obvious characteristic, there is something to be said when you’re type casted because of your physical stature.
One such comment is, “you’re so cute”. (It carries a different tone than “You look so cute.”)
I am unsure of how to receive. So I respond with silence and avoid naming the awkwardness by introducing another topic of conversation.
Cute is for something or someone you want to pinch the cheek of, squeeze into a bear hug. When used to describe anyone beyond their early years of life, it’s intended as a compliment I’m sure. But what about its effect?
What if this unconscious commentary maintains a cycle and a system of smallness? And what if the beneficiary is primarily the speaker more than the recipient?
Cute implies you are harmless, inoffensive toward harm and evil. Your impact on the world is innocuous and inconsequential. At best, you spark the feel good chemicals - endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – but fall short of arousing awe, admiration, wonder, and reverence.
Rather, what if “cute” was replaced with admirable, captivating, delightful, breathtaking, beautiful, lovely, or stunning?
Because naming one’s beauty is to affirm their mark and impact. Their face, body, gestures, mannerisms, voice, skin color, their unique signature, their way of bearing image all are needed to tell a fuller picture of their Maker and to make known the kingdom of God.
This summer, I’m taking a trip with my daughter. Our itinerary involves feasting at the highly rated eateries (within a reasonable budget since her list includes steak and BBQ) and satisfying our curiosities at local tourist stops. These are mere appetizers compared to awakening her hunger to be and become.
Over the years of parenting, I’ve uttered a lot of do's and don’ts, asked routine questions about homework, hygiene, chores and the like, and based my affirmation on performance. I’ve done too little of naming the nuances of who she is. So on this trip, I’m sharing my deep sorrow for the ways I've made her feel small and kept her small. But that’s not all. There is much more. I’m inviting her to discover her signature and calling her to leave her mark.
She is captivating. She is beloved. She is written in palm of His hands.