Our search for significance often begins on a playground sometime between the ages of 3 -5. It starts the day we first risk asking the question, “Will you play with me?” and then matures to even more vulnerability when we dare to add, “Will you be my friend?”.
Think about how many times over your lifetime you asked those questions – and how many times the answer either hurt or disappointed you. These encounters are the beginning of our shaping.
I watched my granddaughter try to approach a group of girls the other day at the park. The girls were fully engaged in what they were doing and obviously all knew each other well. At first, she stood a distance away from them – observing and waiting. I knew what she wanted and it was agonizing to watch. She inched closer and closer hoping they would notice her, knowing full well she had nothing to offer them but herself.
My instinct was to dive in, intervene, and help her out. But my heart knew better. It would be as big a mistake as helping a struggling baby bird out of its birthing shell.
There are things we need to discover and conquer all on our own. The shaping of our identity and the role others play in our significance are core issues we’re tasked to settle through a lifetime of experiences. It starts early and the lessons we learn early-on carry as much weight as the ones we learn later in life.
I’ve worn the same uncomfortable shoes my granddaughter did that day many times in my life. It’s risky business to seek an invitation into an established group. Do you remember your first day at a new school, or your first crush or first job interview? The playgrounds change, but the emotions are the same.
During the long quiet walk back to my car, I sensed the wheels turning in my granddaughter’s mind.
As much as I wanted to tell her this was an isolated experience or that she was the most special girl on earth – I knew there were other more important shaping factors in play.
Instead, we talked about compassion and empathy, about forgiveness and feelings.
The truth is, not everyone she meets will like her or want to be her friend (even though the sun rises and sets on her, in my book). Her significance is not found in the acceptance of others. It’s not even found within the security of her family. Her significance is found in Christ and who he’s created her to be.
He has given her, and us, everything we need to effectively (and significantly) join the game of life on any playground we find ourselves. We are secure, loved and equipped to be his. And that’s good enough.
Pat … the amazing reality is that we still silently speak those questions … they stay lodged somewhere inside our wounded souls. And all this social media stuff keeps them alive and well. Sadly.
And that photo? Simply priceless.
Weekend joys, friend …
So true Linda, on all accounts! The best remedy I’ve found to quiet those voices, that sadly are not all that hidden – is retreat. Sometimes away from and always to…
I love the photo too. The artist has many beautiful shots.
Agreed, Linda. Social media gives the illusion that fears and insecurities are conquered with the sharing of posts and affirmation received from a “like” button. But the hurt is there. Could it be now more than ever?
It might be “now more than ever”, but the remedy remains the same, doesn’t it Lisha?
1 Thessalonians 2:4, John 12:43, Galatians 1:10, Romans 12:1-2
I think every person struggles with this same problem of trying to be accepted in whatever situation they are in; whether it is the workplace or even sometimes within our own family. We want to be significant. The truth is we are significant and each with our own customized and unique significance.
We’re complex creatures for sure, Hope – and way more equipped than we allow ourselves to believe.
Just read this after our morning base touch. Yup, anywhere…
I’m praying – especially while you’re in the playground you’re in today. xoxo
As a teacher of young children I see this very same scenario almost every day at school. I also see parents come to the rescue of their children worrying their egos will be forever damaged if someone doesn’t like their child. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Character is built on the playground as well as significance. You handled this situation perfectly 🙂
The compulsion parents have to defend their children is unmatched by any other emotion, but you’re right – building character is an even more difficult task. Thanks for loving little ones and helping to train their parents. Also, thanks for visiting this space, Patty Ann.
I appreciated this chance to follow you into the playground. When I read your post this morning, this line struck me and has stayed with me: “she had nothing to offer them but herself.” How often that that feels like ‘not enough’. Such an easy foolishness to believe. Thank you for shining the light on it!
You’re right, it’s an “easy foolishness” to believe and usually the reason we spend our life looking for attributes, possessions or actions to give us worth. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Love the rainboots on those little feet! <3
Me too, Kelly. Way more boot than leg – there’s nothing like a preschooler and so, so much to love.
I will most definitely be sharing this article during the Parent Ed hour at HTHPIP. It breaks my heart to watch the precious helicopter moms want to make it all better FAST for their little ones.
You’re right, the mistake isn’t in the desire to “make it all better”, the mistake is in rushing to the rescue too soon. Some of the most valuable lessons we learn in life are hidden in our painful experiences.
BLESS your Parent Ed hour and the conversations it brings.
Love this Pat. Thanks for the beautiful reminder!
How sweet you are, Lindy. Thank you for reading and commenting.
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