I like to watch the news as I eat lunch. Today I hear this news report of another school shooting. In Ohio this time. One boy dead, a junior in high school, and others wounded. The report mentioned students describing the shooter as an “outcast” and sadly I was not surprised.
Remember high school? Remember the pressure, the social ranking? Perhaps you were bullied and made fun of or maybe even did the bullying, at the least you remember the kids that suffered through it. A few years ago I got to thinking about a girl who was bullied and made fun of when I was in middle school. Thinking back it was so completely random. It seems once the target is chosen others take up arms in a private sigh of relief. Anyway, I moved away in 8th grade so I decided to google her. You know, hoping she was successful and beautiful and wonderful. See, I had not given her the hardest of times in 6th and 7th grade but I did remember saying something unkind to her one particular day. Honestly, I can still see it in my mind’s eye. Anyway, when I googled her I discovered she had died of illness as an adult. I couldn’t believe it. I could only hope she had happy years and lots of love. And I asked God for His forgiveness for the way I spoke to my classmate so long ago.
Maybe this post is just the outlet for my heart’s reaction to the news today. The truth is that the pressure and rank continues, though never as severe as high school, when as adults we are still measuring and preening and hiding ourselves.
I believe God’s heart is broken today. For the loss of life and other victims certainly. But I believe His heart is broken every day for those who are bullied, made fun of, pushed aside and ostracized. Jesus was bullied, made fun of, pushed aside and ostracized, too, you know. Our God is not one who does not understand our pain.
From the time my girls began stringing words together we have talked at great length about the words we use. I don’t mean lots of long lectures. I mean in discussions about school, friends, movies and books. I need my girls to know the power of unkind words as well as the power of love. We talk about how it feels to be called stupid or loser or to be made fun of for any reason. They imagine how it hurts and sometimes they learn first hand. When that happens I keep “mama bear” in check and we talk about how being laughed at or called a name feels. Then I ask, well is what they said about you true? “No” is the response because my girls already know who they are. They are world-changers. Beautiful and smart with big Jesus-loving hearts. So when they can see the unnecessary unkindness as false, we can move right on along without it settling into their little hearts.
We gotta make sure our children know who they are. We gotta send them out into the world knowing God made them special and has a good plan for their lives. Yes! My older girls hear it and already we whisper sweet truths to Leighton’s infant ears…Jeremiah 29:11 says He knows the plans He has for you, sweet girl, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope…
Here’s the thing. They can’t live in a bubble. And we can’t go all mama and papa bear when they get their feelings hurt. We must show them how to cope and process. But if we ourselves are still carrying bully baggage or are still competing and preening in grown-up world, how can we? How many times do we filter their experiences through our pain or insecurities? I think we do it a lot. I have some areas of my life that I have been praying about and God is speaking to my heart and showing me the root of certain behaviors in my parenting. One of the best gifts we can give to our children is to earnestly seek God ourselves. Only Jesus understands us so completely. Only Jesus can heal our past hurts and current insecurities. Only Jesus can free us from the weight and bondage we unknowingly pass on to our children in our reactions and handling of their hurts.
We can teach our children kindness by being kind. We can teach them courage and character by refusing to gossip and standing up for others who are treated unfairly. We can teach our children to truly look for the best in others by seeing the best in them. We can teach our children to believe what God says about them over what people say when we ourselves believe it. We can show them how to forgive when we forgive. We can teach them how to say I’m sorry as they hear us say it. Before I had children I thought of them as blank slates, but the terrible and glorious truth of parenting is that they are in fact mirrors.
These days the perpetual prayer of my heart is God, help me see people the way You see them. After all, people can be difficult to deal with sometimes! I mean sometimes you have to get off by yourself a few minutes and ask God for help in a hurry so you don’t react in a wrong way! (And sometimes still do anyway…smile). I guess the heart of this somewhat rambling post, inspired by a cruel Ohio day, is that Jesus really, really loves us just as we are. And if we could just let that be enough, discover it is more than enough, our sweet babies might follow in our footsteps and change their world.
No matter their grades, looks or talents…it will be their empathy, loving hearts and character that most reveal the kind of mother I was to my girls.