May 25, 2017

Jealous of My 5 Year Old

Last week we spent some vacation time in North Carolina, and although the weather was amazing and warm all week, the ocean was quite cold. The very first day, I got close enough for a wave to hit my feet and immediately retreated further up the beach. My son? He could have cared less about the temperature of the water.

Every single day when we got down to the beach, that kid was in the water and playing in the waves. As I watched him the first day from the beach, I was overcome with this proud moment of, "That's my boy!" The smile and laughter and joy and playing without a care in the world just brought tears to my eyes as I took such delight in watching him.

I realized that the reason I was so proud of him in that moment and was delighting in him so much was that he was fully and authentically being himself and he didn't care what anyone else thought.

Prior to going in the ocean on that first day, I tried to talk him out of it:

"Buddy, the water is too cold. Are you sure you want to go in? Why don't you just play up on the beach with your sister? You know you're going to be alone in the water, right?"

There was no talking him out if it. Regardless of the discouragement and the rejections he received to join him in the water, he was going in the water and he was going to love every minute of it.

As I watched him, my joy shifted to another emotion that surprised me: jealousy. I realized that I wished I had what he did in that moment. This child-like faith that didn't care about anyone else and was solely set on just being the best version of myself that I could.

Let's be honest, once we get past our early childhood years we become easily focused on all the external voices and what they say about who we are and what we should be. Rather than just diving into the water of life and being our authentic selves, we spend so much time on the beach looking around, listening to the voices, being concerned about what others would say if we decided to go in the water. Misery loves company, and those who decide they would rather fit in, follow the "rules", and live out of fear don't want to be standing on the beach alone.

You know the water is too cold?

Are you sure you want to go in?

Just stay up here on the beach.

No one else is going in.

As I stood watching my son and feeling these contrasting emotions, I felt God challenge me and ask, "Why do you care so much what others say? Just be the person I created you to be. Get in the water!"

I am trying more and more to do just that...and it's hard. The voices and the critics can be so loud at times. It doesn't help either that my personality is so image driven and so I care deeply what others think. I have always grown from the idea of turning my critics into my teachers: What can I learn? How can I grow? What is constructive in what they are suggesting?

I think that is a really important posture, however as I grow in self-awareness and as I learn more about what my Creator has to say about who I am, I am learning some critics are critical for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. They don't have a clue who you are and because of that have zilch that they can teach you. The best thing you can do with these critics is to learn the importance of the delete button.

This is where spiritual practice is so helpful. If you don't have time in your day to meditate, pray and talk with your Creator about who you are in the Divine, you need to make that time. Keep a journal of the things that God teaches you about yourself and go back to it when you start to doubt yourself or your critics become too loud. Spend some time reading the first three chapters of Ephesians which over and over and over again talks about who we are and doesn't tell us one thing that you need to do. Distance yourself from relationships that place your worth in something else that you need to do or become to be fully accepted, and instead surround yourself with people who will embrace you for who you are, which brings loving and constructive criticism towards growth and wholeness.

Above everything, get in the water! It might feel cold at first. It might be a little uncomfortable. Once you fully dive in though, you will find a joy and a fullness that can't be matched anywhere else.

How do you tell the difference between a critic that's constructive and a critic you need to just ignore?

What helps you ignore the crowd that may discourage you from being yourself?

What practices have you found to be helpful in connecting you to the Divine truth about who you are?

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