The Great Thing About Brittany

Dear Will:

I have a niece who is stunningly beautiful—double-take gorgeous—the sort of blond-haired, blue-eyed twenty-something girl who gets noticed by simply entering a room. I’ve known her all her life, and even so, when I see her at family gatherings I can’t help remarking on it. I’ll say to her mom (my sister-in-law Kelly): “Brittany is so pretty!”

Invariably, Kelly responds with something like this: “The great thing about Brittany is that she has such a good heart.”

And it’s true. Throughout her teens, Brittany was active in her youth group at church, always striving to do the right thing. She has always been a dedicated Christian and has even expressed some interest in working in a youth ministry for a career. She is consistently kind and thoughtful, quick with a smile and unwaveringly tolerant of her boorish relatives. In short, she has turned out to be the kind of person any parent would wish for at the time of a child’s birth.

What Kelly is trying to teach me, without being even somewhat heavy-handed about it, is that Brittany’s true beauty lies within. What makes her special is not the blue eyes, but rather the kind heart. I was reminded of that principle earlier this week by, of all people, a talk-radio host. He said that in our frenzy to add to our children’s academic credentials and to feed their extracurricular interests, we should also devote a concerted effort to teaching them integrity, honesty, virtue, and kindness. His point was a good one: In the end, it will matter much more to me what kind of people my children become than what their professional credentials or social status might be.

Do you remember the Old Testament story of the anointing of David? It taught the same principle. The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to visit Jesse, with the specific purpose of anointing a new king in Israel. The plan was for Samuel to offer a burnt offering with Jesse and his sons, with the promise being that the new king would be revealed to Samuel while he was there.

When Samuel met the first of Jesse’s sons, however, the Lord gave the prophet this counsel: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; . . . for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Heeding this admonition, Samuel discerned that none of Jesse’s seven oldest sons had been chosen by the Lord. “And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children?  And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.  And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither” (1 Samuel 16:11). Immediately David was summoned, and when he arrived the Lord told the prophet: “Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

What makes this story all the more relevant to me this afternoon is that my youngest son, Seth, turns eight tomorrow. In a week he will be baptized, and because of that event many friends and family members will gather in support. If I were to follow my usual tendencies, of course, I would spend a good portion of that time telling everyone about Seth’s extraordinary performance in school and on the athletic field. On retrospect, however, it seems that it would be a better idea for me to tell them instead of Seth’s tender heart.

He really is a great kid. I wish you could meet him. You would like him a lot.


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