Last night I saw my daughter Moriah in the performance of her lifetime thus far: Lena Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain.” The story is about a glamorous Hollywood diva who is America’s favorite leading lady in silent films at the time when talking pictures are just being unveiled. Her producer wants to jump on the “talkie” trend, but there’s just one problem: Lena is best seen and not heard!
From the first line Moriah delivered in that high, squeaky voice and obnoxious accent (so at odds with her glamorous beauty), the audience was in the palm of her hand. She got laughs and applause at all the right moments. The energy and anticipation in the room spiked every time she walked on stage. You could feel it in the air. And when she sang her screechy solo, “What’s Wrong With Me?”, which ended with her emphatic declaration, “Nuthin’!” everyone lost it.
When I found Moriah after the show, I could hardly put words to my praise. This role is the first she’s had that has let her give full expression to her talent as an actress. “You were absolutely spectacular,” I told her. “You nailed it,” I said. “You were flawless!”
She beamed through her stage makeup and tears. “I know!” she said.
And that – THAT -- was the best moment of the night for me.
I pondered it all evening. I’m still pondering it now.
C.S. Lewis put it well. Here’s what he said in his masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters:
“[God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents--or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”
Moriah knows her talent is not only a talent but a gift. A gift. She works harder than anyone I know on her lines and choreography. She rehearses relentlessly, and her dogged hard work pays off. But there is also something she has that is just there. She was born with it. It’s something that means she can get farther with her hard work than someone else could, who works equally hard, but lacks that innate Gift. That’s simply the truth, and she knows it. Her enjoyment of the perfection of her own performance is not arrogance. It’s thankfulness.
Coincidentally, this past week I’ve had a few conversations with students, all women, both in class discussions and privately, where they talked about the expectation upon women in particular to be self-deprecating. Or the tendency of women to genuinely be self-deprecating because that is how they feel about themselves: “Not enough.”
In my children’s lit class at the community college last Wednesday night, we read a couple of children’s stories that dealt with the theme of being defined by what others think of us. One woman was close to tears as she shared her struggle to believe that she is good at anything, or even special as a person at all. She has absolutely no confidence in herself, and it holds her back. No matter what she attempts, she feels defeated before she tries. I find this is pervasive. I struggle with it myself sometimes.
I’m not going to try to solve that problem in this blog. This is not about that. It’s an observation and a celebration that my daughter (and I could add, all three of my daughters!) is confident and secure in her God-given talent and in her own skillful exercise of it. She doesn’t have to lower her eyes and look away and downplay her spectacular performance or highlight some little mistake she might have made. She can enjoy her own success every bit as much as the success of the other actors who shared the stage with her that night. She can shine and be happy in her own light.