I sat in Hallie, the middle's, bedroom a few evenings ago just catching up on the events of the day. As I reached down to hug her goodnight my eyes fixed on a Christmas gift I gave her a couple of years ago. It was a simple piece of wall art I found at TJ Maxx.
The words, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star stamped across the board, I hoped, would remind her of her brilliance and encourage her in her endeavors. I'd crudely strung a piece of twine across the bottom to hang her theater ribbons. She was so fond of them her eighth grade year.
Several ribbons have fallen and likely made their way under her bed amongst empty water bottles and socks who will likely never reunite with their partners in the basket that lives in laundry room downstairs. She's won several ribbons since then who are probably stuffed in a makeup drawer or lying in the abyss we call her closet.
This shrine has lost its meaning. I'm glad.
Though I mean well, I've erroneously, through the years, shared a potentially harmful message with my kids.
In attempt to help them be secure, I've spoken words to help them believe that when it comes to beauty, brains and character they're tops! ...Except for when others make them feel they're not. And except for when I make them feel they're not because I have to correct them, or even when I say careless things because I'm cranky (How long has it been since you've washed YOUR HAIR?!, How are you NOT getting this?)
Correction should be given carefully, but so should compliments. When our children see us put confidence in their flesh, they will inevitably be disappointed when their flesh fails, as it will time and time again.
Our children need to see us bewildered at how God has made them and who God is making them to be. When they see our focus and confidence is clearly on God and his work they are more able to love themselves without having to shine above others (or else shrink in the shadows).
Marveling at God's work in their lives, rather than in their stellar behavior or their awesome talents or features, enables them to love others without the need to try to continually outdo (to ensure they hold their I am special title). It permits them to believe that I am special (and that others are too) because we're created and spurred on by a God who does the incredible in each of us.
Here's what I wish we all had the faith and courage to tell our children:
- You are special. You're special because God made you with a unique story to live. You're not special because you're better than anyone else.
- You're beautiful; a fearfully and wonderfully made individual...just like everybody else our amazing God lovingly created.
- You're knowledgeable and capable. God has given you the ability to do the good things he wants you to do. You're wise when you don't boast of those capabilities. You're wise when you need not be convinced of this gift through the compliments and acknowledgement of others. You're wise when you remember that God's grace is available when you fail to properly use your knowledge and abilities. You're wise when you remember to use your abilities for his purpose.
I pretty much stink at this right now. I often choose the fast track to security for my children; a quick pat on the back, a graceless remark about another child (in effort to make mine feel better), and through puffy words that deflate as quickly as they inflated a false sense of confidence.
I can do better. I'm sure we all can. After all, God's still working in all His children.
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
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