Which Child Were You?

In your family of origin which child were you?  Oldest?  Youngest?  Middle child?  Favored child?  Neglected child?  In a completely healthy family each child would be loved and cherished without trying to make them into something different.  There are healthy families in this world.  But since all families are made up of human beings and none of us is perfect, even healthy families have problems.  There are also some unhealthy ones too.  Being an unhealthy family doesn’t automatically mean the children aren’t loved.  It may just mean it’s not the healthiest kind of love.  In my many years of teaching/education I have only met one child who I believed to not be loved.  Some were loved in inappropriate ways, but loved.  Think this is a new phenomenon?  That it’s only happening in the world of today – in the world of chaos?  If so, think again!

Go to Bible times.  In I Samuel 16 the prophet/judge Samuel was instructed by God to go to Jesse’s home in Bethlehem and anoint the next king.  Samuel complies with God’s directive and does the normal, societal thing – he picks Eliab.  Eliab is the oldest child, probably the tallest – certainly the most important son (being the first born) according to society.  But God says, “No.”  Jesse calls forth each of his seven sons.  To each one God says “No”.  Samuel asks Jesse, “Is this it?  Are there no more sons?”  Watch Jesse’s answer.  “Well, yes, there is the runt.  But he’s out tending the sheep.”  Notice the words.  They don’t sound like a proud papa.  His answer seems to be given reluctantly.  His words are less than encouraging or inspiring.  “Runt”?  At best, that would mean he was the smallest/shortest child.  In a derogatory sense he would be considered undersized or weak.  The second thing we see in Jesse’s words are “but he’s out tending the sheep.”  Seems to me he is downplaying Samuel meeting this son.  Jesse doesn’t know why Samuel has made this visit.  He doesn’t know Samuel is about to anoint the next king.  But he is certainly not encouraging Samuel to meet this son.  Ever wondered why?  Why, when Jesse is asked to gather his sons and join Samuel in worship, did he omit David?  Didn’t David matter?  Was he not important?  Was he a ‘throw-away” child – considered more like a servant than a son?  What is Jesse’s message?  I don’t know.  However, later when Jesse sent David to deliver food to the brothers in the war camp Eliab overhears David fraternizing with some of the soldiers and he loses his temper saying, “What are you doing here?  Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep?  I know what you’re up to.  You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!”  Ever wondered why Eliab is so angry with David?  Part of his anger may be from the fear of losing the impending battle with the Philistines.  But this is “brutal” anger!  Maybe this is fostered by how David was treated at home – an attitude learned from Jesse.  As the father goes, so go the sons?  Did David not ‘fit the mold’ for being important in this family?

Let’s go back to your family of origin – the family you grew up in.  What were the dynamics?  Were you treated more like Eliab or more like David?  Were you loved dearly by your family of origin?  Were you ignored?  Or treated in negative ways?  Regardless of how you were treated you found ways to enjoy or to survive.  Children are resilient!  Each finds a way to either enjoy or to, at least, survive.  We are wondrously created!  Part of that is finding survival techniques.  Your young child figured out how to act / react in your family.  Maybe you learned to “power over” your other siblings.  Maybe you learned to “hide in plain view” – being unnoticed was better than being noticed.  Maybe you hid out in other places – a friend’s home – outside somewhere – even in your own room when the family was gathered elsewhere.  Maybe you acted out in school, or became the “perfect” student, or found your “family” in your school friends.

The good news is you survived!!  The not-so-good news is that your childhood survival techniques probably don’t work in your adult world.  You try and try, but somehow life is not the same!  Other adults don’t want you trying to “rule over” them or putting them down (like Eliab).  Or, they don’t “recognize” you / your contributions because you’re still blending into the background – you’re still acting invisible (like David).  Or, they don’t accept your bullying ways (bullied people often become bullies).  If you’re not enjoying the life God called you to have perhaps some changes need to be made.

“Changing” is not easy because the way you act is a habit – an old habit.  Changing / breaking habits is not easy, especially, if these habits were acquired in your early childhood.  First thing you must do is praise the child in you who discovered ways to survive!  Don’t be angry with this young child because the methods are not working in your adult world.  Accept your young child, praise this child, love this child.  He/She did the best they knew how to do in the circumstances.

Remember David didn’t set out to be KING.  He was just a young, but strong boy/man – tending sheep is not an easy job.  Most of his time was spent in nature watching / caring for the sheep he was supposed to tend.  He probably wasn’t around many other people except when he came home.  He didn’t know he would be a king – he did not have any visions to proclaim this.  In fact, after he was anointed he returned to the life he was already living.  So what you must next do is ask God what he has already planned for your life.  Know first, he already loves you – no matter what you are like at this moment!  He already calls you his Beloved!  He wants you to come to him, sit in his lap and be still.  He wants you to own him as God just as he already owns you as his child (regardless of your age)!  Ask God to help you love your child and then help you to be what he desires for you.

Know that you don’t have to “suffer in silence” or wish for some different life.  The rich life in God is there for the accepting.  Notice, you do not have to take that life – it’s already yours.  You just have to accept it!

David didn’t always make good choices.  He didn’t become “perfect” after he was appointed King, and he certainly didn’t become perfect after he became King.  And yet, God proclaimed David as “a man after my heart”.  God doesn’t expect you to become perfect before or after you accept him.  He simply wants you to accept him, own him as your God . . . . . then he will do what he does best – grow you into the “child” he created you to be.

Holidays are mostly fun.  But they can be very hectic, and sometimes unpleasant – sometimes because you can’t go home – sometimes because you do go home.  During these holidays remember you are God’s child – you are his Beloved.  Praise the child you were – move on to what God calls you to be.  You will be blessed throughout the process no matter how difficult the journey.

I Want . . . . .

“The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not be in want.”  Whaaat??? Not ‘in want’???  What about necessities?  What about a few “feel good’s”???  What about a job? A better job?  What about a little more money?  A bigger house?  What about wanting to be older (if I’m a teen)?  What about wanting to be younger (if I’m older)?  What about having a better body – a better shaped body?  What about being loved?  Accepted?  What about having a little power/control over my life?  What about having some friends – true friends?  What about being able to have a moment or two of peace and quiet?

Ever had any of these thoughts/feelings?  Be honest with yourself.  I have.  And yet we claim to believe in God.  We love God – we trust God – we claim him.  God never intended that we never have ‘wants’.  What he wants is that we love and trust him more.  That we turn to him in our joys AND in our troubles – that we cuddle up to Him and allow him to restore our equilibrium with peace and joy and love.  That doesn’t mean he will always take away the “bad stuff” in our lives – sometimes he does – sometimes he simply sits with us, holding us in his lap and hugging really tight as the storm roars through.  God longs to nourish each of us spiritually and emotionally – with his loving care, put our minds at ease so we can rest peacefully – so we can be refreshed and strengthened.

Let’s go back to Psalm 23.  What if BEFORE we ask for even the basic essentials we practiced what David (author of Psalm 23) talks about – going to God and allowing him to nourish us spiritually and emotionally.  David uses the language/descriptors of shepherd and sheep.  In today’s world, perhaps many of us don’t understand the nature of sheep.  Besides being dirty and smelly they are skittish – easily scared.  They are definitely followers – not leaders.  In order for them to be a profitable animal to raise they need a calm environment, good grass, calm waters and a protector.  Sudden movements and loud noises frighten them and they react with fear.  If sheep start running away they will keep running – even off a cliff.  They cannot make “rational” decisions independently.  That’s why as a shepherd tending to sheep David can write the language of a shepherd giving loving care of his sheep.  David paints a picture of sheep being nourished with food and water.  As our Shepherd, God longs to nourish you and me in the same way.  He wants each of us to stop and rest – he wants each of us to experience peace – the peace sheep experience lying down in green pastures / walking beside quiet waters.  Feel the serenity in these words/thoughts.  Experience the rest.  This will restore us – give us strength – refresh us.  Afterwards he will lead us where we need to go.  We must trust and hold on tight to him.  Then, in the calm, in our renewed strength and joy, ASK!!!  Ask for what you need / what you desire.  Don’t be too surprised if your wants and needs change in this process.  In the calm of being hugged by God we see life more clearly.  Rest – Restore – Ask!