Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Grace by Another Name
You are just barely two, but I feel like I should tell your future self something about your present self. You are currently sleeping in a big boy bed. This is a big deal because you have had a real bed set up in your room for almost three months, but you never choose the bed over the crib. You will sleep in the bed if we make you, and you will go to sleep in the bed if we stay with you until you nod off. Yet tonight you chose the big bed, almost against your will. You seemed scared, but you were determined to sleep in the bed rather than the crib.
What was going on in your mind, I wonder? I wonder this a lot, but tonight, it's a more intense wonder. What clicked and made you decide that you needed to sleep in the big bed? Was it your own desire to be more grown-up? Was it because you get more cuddles from your parents while we're helping you sleep in the big bed? (Heaven forbid that you should feel deprived of affection; we shower it on you like rain on Mt. Waialeale.) Or, was it something more sinister, like you feeling like you have to do more, be more, in order to measure up to your parents' expectations, in order to earn our approval and love?
Even if that isn't the motivation for tonight's adventure, I'm afraid that you might be dogged by this thought process throughout your life. You hate to do things wrong or to mess things up. Spilled milk ... yup, you cry over it as though your whole world were ending, and all the more if we express even a hint of displeasure. Tripping, breaking, dropping, spilling; I haven't been around toddlers much, so I can't tell if this is normal, but tonight my mind is thinking over the ways this will trip you up in the future.
There could be so many. Maybe you will be so afraid to be wrong that you won't ever try. Maybe you will be afraid of what being wrong will do to your sense of self, so you won't be able to admit it to yourself or others. Maybe you will be afraid of what being wrong does to others' opinion of you, so you will try and try and try to not be wrong (but, of course, you will always feel like you're not good enough for whomever is your standard). Maybe you will be convinced that you are always wrong and will give up on yourself.
And so, future Titus, I need you to know and to remember this: you are so securely, so strongly loved by your parents and, more importantly, by God, that no amount of being wrong can ever shake that from you. When you are loved by God, what you do does not change who you are. Now, who you are should and will influence what you do; this is what Jesus means when he says that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. But the opposite is not true. When your identity is defined by someone outside of yourself -- and, more particularly, when that someone is the never-changing Christ -- you cannot change that identity by what you do. And this is a good thing; you must always remember that Christ's arm is farther than you can run, and his grip is simultaneously strong and gentle beyond your imagination.
Your aunt Baba (Barb) was here over Christmas and she pointed out to me that one of the big differences between guilt and shame is that guilt has to do with what you do; shame has to do with who you are. Guilt says, "I have done wrong." Shame says, "I am wrong." May God keep your spirit sensitive to your guilt, and may it drive you to confession, repentance and receiving forgiveness. But may the blood of Christ drive shame far from you. May you have the courage to take risks in your relationships, in your schooling, in your career, in ways that I can't even imagine, because you have a boldness inspired by love flowing to you and through you. May you have the humility to admit when you are wrong, because you know that the cross is the deepest possible criticism of you; and, having been covered by the blood, no other criticism can harm your secure standing before the Lord. May you be free from the tyranny of others' opinion, whether it be friend, family or foe; and may God grant us a family where we can all be honest about our sins and shortcomings because we have experienced the joy of true forgiveness. And, may you never give up hope, recognizing that though you may not have the power to sustain yourself, you are never beyond hope because you are never beyond Christ.
If you believe any of the birth order psychology, you as the eldest child will bear a special burden of perfectionism. Though I am the younger sister, I am an "elder brother" personality at heart, so I know a bit of the challenge you might face. Remember, my dear boy, that you have an Elder Brother who was perfect on your behalf. I pray you will thrive in the joy and peace that this knowledge brings.