Anyone who knows me knows the center of my earthly joy is found in the 6 little people for whom I get to be Aunt Cheryl. They’re all extraordinary in their own way. The oldest, Grace, is smart, imaginative, and a natural born leader. When she’s interested in something it consumes her. For the past few years that interest has been dragons. She reads about them, has stuffed dragon toys she names and assigns personalities, and it’s her favorite subject to discuss. At length. So you can imagine my surprise when she announced to her mom that when she enters middle school she will stop liking them so much. Her reason? She wants to “be more normal.” When I heard this my heart broke for her. It happens to all of us, and it’s starting for her. I see the world chipping away at who she is – reshaping her with peer pressure, criticism and expectations until she is a polished, porcelain doll on display. I promptly took her on a date and told her she is extraordinary exactly as she is. Please don’t be anything other than who you are, Bean.
As we get older the expectations and wounds of this world batter us into a new form. So we develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves. We want to belong and we want to be honored, so we do whatever the environment demands of us. We run after money, beauty, and status. Or we ascribe to a counter culture and reject these things to win favor with others who reject them. And little by little we are re-molded, not by the loving Hands of a Refiner, but by a world rejoicing in forgeries. I believe this is one reason Jesus told us to be like little children. Children are still in their true form – their undefended, messy, selfish, imaginative, whimsical true form. They laugh and cry without any thought to appropriate social behavior. The hearts of children are simple. Please love me. Please keep me safe. Please let me have fun.
This doesn’t change as we get older. We just use more complicated words spoken through filters that remove any authentic sense of the desperation we feel. We “process” through forgiveness. We measure our responses to minimize self-exposure. Little children don’t hold grudges, or toss and turn over finances, or see the color of skin, or waste their days drudging through life. These are all behaviors we learn as we lose sight of being beloved Children of Father. A child who is sure of her Father’s love and delight for her is free to run and play and cry and sleep well. She forgives quickly and laughs fully. Her head is full of daydreams, not to-do lists. As she becomes more secure in the Father’s love, the chains of the world’s expectations begin to fall away. When a heart deeply understands its place in the Father, it can maintain it’s whimsy even in a cubicle 40 hours a week. True Sonship is in the spirit, not the circumstances.
But how do we live as Children of Father as adults who can’t blow off work or bills or committee meetings? How do we live with childlike hearts when we are no longer oblivious to the arrows being hurled at us? How do we stay connected to the true self He made us to be and truly experience Him as Father?
Maybe the key to understanding and living in the fullness of my identity as a Daughter is to live as He designed me instead of the identity I take on as the world (and let’s be honest, the church) demands more of me? Maybe it means coming to Him as I am, before I’ve sanitized my words to fit into a “spiritual” framework. Maybe it means bringing Him the same things over and over again – The things I talk about. At length.
For the sake of transparency I’ve not figured out how to live here. This is something I understand in my head but not my heart. I still struggle with feeling His delight over me, and as a result, I live as an orphan. Maybe that’s because He’s not delighted in me when I’m not really being ME. Maybe He finds it difficult to be close to someone who insists on coming to Him with masks on.
At the end of the day, Father wants me as I truly am, without pretense and polish. He’s not interested in interacting with a counterfeit me. And the real me can be untrusting, prideful, angry and obstinate. And He prefers this to any false piety I could feign. With all of my selfishness and demands and daydreams, He wants me to bound up to Him, just as I am, dragons and all.