It has been said that every story has two sides. At least.
That was certainly true for the story that I’ve been telling you this week, and it is true for the way we often see the gift we are given in our identity. Remember when I asked you to think about what your definition of a gift would be? Well, pull out your definition and see if any of this might fit.
I’ve always been good at seeing things from both sides, understanding the emotions and desires on opposite ends of whatever spectrum chose to present itself on any given day. I’ve always considered that a gift.
My mother, on the other hand, called me a collector of lost causes and bemoaned some of my friendships because of the “bad influence” they presented. All I could see was people that needed a friend.
My own transition into motherhood helped me redefine that gift of seeing both sides. I encourage my children to be a friend to those in need of one, and even try to help them understand how differently some people live so that they will not judge and ridicule. But there are times when I just have to be an old grump. Those are the times when they are being more than empathetic – they are being influenced.
We have raised our children to have some absolutes in in their lives. They absolutely know they are loved for who they are – not what they do or how well they perform. They absolutely know that they were born for a specific purpose. They absolutely know that problems cannot be solved without honesty.
So in those moments when they are being influenced – all we have to do is ask – How does that honor your identity? (It isn’t always stated in those exact words, but pretty close.) That is all it takes – their whole expression changes, brightens, relaxes. Then come their concerns. They open up, share their thoughts. And we have an amazingly mature conversation about the friend or the situation. They then have the responsibility for making whatever adjustments need to be made.
I’m not blind – I’m not that mom who thinks her children do no wrong when the rest of the town knows their every misdeed. But I’m also not the one who thinks her children are failures when they are actually really cool kids. I’m realistic about who they are.
I can be because I pray for them – and no, I don’t pray for them to be something they are not just to make me happy. I pray that God would reveal to them each day the path that He would have them take. I thank Him for allowing me the honor of being their mother. I ask Him for forgiveness when I have failed them and to let me be humble in my responses to them, so that through that they might see true love. I ask Him to bless them and keep them from harm.
So what does this have to do with seeing both sides?
The point is that most of us – even those who grew up “in church” – don’t have those absolutes in our lives. We see ourselves being tossed in the air, flipped over and over by circumstances in our lives, desperately hoping to land heads-up, rather than with our face in the mud and our backside exposed.
I believe that choosing to parent our children this way has been the best gift we could have given them. The most useful possession they can have is a strong sense of who they are – who they were born to be.
I have so much to be thankful for in my children, and I could become the biggest jerk in the world if I were to start listing all their accomplishments and activities and awards. But none of those things matter to me. What matters is how my children have carried themselves through each opportunity, how humbly they have received any recognition.
I didn’t always value this way of thinking – the desire to receive recognition from other people was tremendously strong in me. The story about the jacket, and being able to change my outward personality each time my family moved, is a testament to how I used to receive other people’s acceptance as validation for my relativistic identity. I thought that who I was only mattered if other people liked me, or I could meet their expectations of me.
That didn’t necessarily change when I had my children, and I didn’t always support my husband in the efforts he put forth to give my children something better. But God allowed me to get myself into a place, so tremendously and specifically relative to my desperate need to see it differently, that the coin was flipped and I can now truly understand the value in having an absolute, objective identity. (In fact that is part of the whole reason for this sabbatical in the first place.)
I was so moved one day recently as I read the way in which Jesus responded to this issue. Amazed that I had never seen it before, even though I had read the verses many times. That is why we say it is the living Word.
“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:41-44 NIV)
Is the gift of your identity wrapped up in accepting glory from someone or something else? Or have you asked Him to show you who you were created to be? His answers will amaze you.
Until next time, I am waiting here on my bench. Hoping to hear your thoughts – even if you disagree.