I read a blog post recently in which the writer took to celebrating her toddler’s emphatic “No’s!” and fearless behavior as proof of God’s loving design. He created this child in just this way with a strong personality and a willingness to yell and scream. These were strengths, and they were not to be noted as weaknesses. Indeed, according to this post, it would be incredibly difficult to discern if this child even had any weaknesses, as all that was discussed was her daughter’s great strengths and talents including stubbornness and anger, advantageously spun as knowing her own mind and letting others know it.
And it was in the midst of this praise that the writer prayed that her daughter would never lose her youthful ferocity and courage. The entire blog post, written as a letter to the young girl, has been niggling at me ever since. And not for any good reason at all.
Because I’ll tell you what. My mother could have written that letter to me when I was a two year old, and for thirty odd years, I would have been proud of being that girl, that girl who said no, who didn’t compromise, who didn’t care what the world thought of her. I was proud. But I was also proud and alone. And ultimately, when we die and meet God, we’ll learn that that is not the way God designed us to be at all.
Yes, God made me just as I am. But He made me knowing that the world is broken and man fallen. So He made me with a solid intelligence and a fierce streak of loyalty and love of hospitality. But He also knew, in making me, that I would value myself too highly, I would be impatient, and sometimes I would be angry for no good reason at all. That I would take things out on the people closest to me because it felt safest to do so. He knew I would be stubborn and bullish. He made me just as I am.
But it would take me years – years – of hurting myself and others with these God-given traits of stubbornness and anger and impatience and pride before I understood that while He made me just as I am, He didn’t make me to celebrate everything about myself. He didn’t make me to stay as I am. For I am a fallen human, in a broken world. Not everything about me is to be celebrated or is worthy of the One Who Created me.
For so long, I believed very strongly in my own spiritual goodness, to the point that I would never stop and reflect on whether I should improve upon it. I didn’t stop to think whether or not I should try to be more patient; no, others should move more quickly and be less wasteful of their time and mine. Should I be less angry? Less stubborn? No, others were simply too dense and inefficient. I was merely reacting in a self-perceived righteousness that the rest of the world was too slow to grasp. I am who I am, I reasoned. Everyone else needs to do better.
The writer of that blog post, celebrating her daughter’s childish gumption and resolve was overjoyed that her girl didn’t care what the world thought of her. Neither did I, but that also meant I wasn’t overmuch concerned with what friends or family thought of my wild, unhealthy behavior – of my alcohol and drug usage or my cavalier attitude towards others’ emotions or to my less-than-chaste lifestyle. Those people constitute “the world,” too, you know.
But according to this writer who prays her daughter will retain the same fierce traits when she ages as when she was two years old, these features of mine should also be celebrated. There is no need for improvement. God made all of me so all of me is good, even the mean, angry, stubborn, lustful parts.
I think, though, we can recognize that that isn’t true at all. But it takes a following through on the writer’s logic to see where it actually leads. Yes, it sounds wonderful at first brush that your child maintains that uninhibited zeal for life, and if it is directed towards the pursuit of God, such as the case for Christian martyrs, it is a good thing. But left unchecked, undisciplined, steeped in our own ego-centricity, where does it lead? You teach a child to celebrate themselves so much, that you might just miss disciplining the parts that need to be corrected, and there are parts that need to be corrected. We are made in God’s image, but we, my God, are filled with weaknesses.(That’s not to say that God actively creates us with evil tendencies, but rather, we are, through our fallen human nature, ignoring or actively undermining our great capacity for love. With these tendencies, we are creating a hole where love should be.
My stubbornness, my impatience – as a child, these traits weren’t corrected for any reason other than I needed to obey my parents. But teach me, or any willful child, that God wants us to humble ourselves, to put others ahead of ourselves…then you’re better able to guide that child into a more meaningful, and ultimately truer, relationship with God, to better align our small lives to His grandeur.
And while the writer of that post insisted on celebrating her daughter because of who SHE is, she misses, in language and logic, the point even further. Because we, in fact, should not be celebrating ourselves at all, not the positive traits or the negative ones. We celebrate ourselves too much as it is, we refer to ourselves as unicorns, as “enough.” We’re all better than the world deserves, and the world is lucky to have us. We reek of pride. And to suggest otherwise would be a debasement to girls and women everywhere. God made us to be fierce and bold and willing to scream no. Or at least that’s what this writer proclaimed.
But read the Bible. God didn’t create us to be that way, unless, of course, we are acting fierce and bold and adamant for Him. But too often in fluff pieces like this one that’s been bothering me all week, that is not portrayed. What’s portrayed is a call to women to be abrasive and aggressive because that’s what we need in order to be heard in this world. But in truth, it isn’t the world who needs to hear us. It’s God.
So if you have a belligerent, headstrong little girl who likes to wear rainbow-striped pants and a cat ear headband and a shark T-shirt and your prayers are that she stays that way because God made her that way, rather than growing in Christ as she develops, because just like her parents, she is a fallen creature in dire need of Divine Salvation, I think you’re missing the mark. Because you’re celebrating the creature, rather than celebrating the God Who created her. You’re celebrating a faulty broken lens of a person, rather than developing the inner compass and framework by which to pursue a life of holiness. And you’re actually really missing the point in what God calls us to do – not to be abrasive or aggressive for the sake of ourselves but to be humble, obedient and subservient to Our Great Creator.
We are each of us given equal dignity by God, but that doesn’t mean we are to uphold ourselves as if we were our own god. We have dignity, but we should still be humble. If we scream, if we rant, if we rail, if we are tenacious and obstinate, it should be to the glory of God and His plan, not to making sure that the world hears us and listens to us and respects us. If we’re doing things right, in fact, there are those in this world who should outright despise us. If we retain our childish stubbornness, it should be a stubbornness for Him and His will and nothing to do, as that writer hoped for her daughter, to make her will known.