Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Treasure Chest


How many of us fail to grasp our own self-worth?  Too often we are shaped less by who we really are and more by who others perceive us to be. We allowe their criticisms and comments begin to define us from an early age. The German poet Goethe once wrote, "If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he out to be and could be." This is sage advice that I try to remember in my parenting and in my interaction with others.  Too many of us hear negatvie things about who we are when we are young and that shapes and defines so much of how we perceive ourselves. This is especially true of children who have grown up in abusive homes or situations. 

Oftentimes, it can be hard for Cava to accept love and that he is of value and great worth.  His identity and self-image has been shaped by hearing only negative things about himself. Those cold, harsh words reverberate in his soul and those voices echo in his mind whenever he struggles, so much so that he becomes plagued with self-doubt. As his Papa, I try to help him see who he really is: an amazing kid who has so much to offer the world.  Knowing that he has a hard time understanding the abstract, I gave him this image.

Once upon a time, there was a treasure chest in the middle of a village. People passed by this chest, but thought nothing of it; after all, it looked neglected and forgotten. Because the chest was unprotected from the sun and the rain, the chest did not appear special or of any worth. Weeds grew up around this chest. Then, one day, a family came to the village. They noticed the chest and inquired about it from the people of the village. Nobody who they asked gave the chest much thought. "Can we have it?" the family asked. "What do we care," the villagers replied, "it's just an old beaten chest."  So the family picked up the chest and took it back to where they lived. Once inside their own home, they slowly began to pry the chest open and when they did, they found it filled with treasure. Gold and jewels and riches like they had never seen before. They could not believe that the villagers never thought to open it themselves. Oh how their lives were changed by that treasure they found.

Cava loved the story and he talked about what he'd do if he found treasure (buy books, Legos, a bird). Then I revealed to him, "You are like that treasure chest. Nobody had noticed what was inside of you before. They didn't take the time to even see. But we adopted you and we began to see what an amazing, awesome and special kid you were. We saw that you had so many wonderful things inside of you: your intelligence and your kind heart. Each day that we spend with you, we see something new and valuable about you. There is such great worth and even you did not see it before. I cannot wait until you begin to grasp what a treasure you are. In all the history of the world there has never been and never will be another you. God created you uniquely you. He made you special and others now see that as well - at your school, at church." He smiled his big, warm Cava smile. That, too, is treasure.

How many of us need someone to tell us that we, too, are great treasures? That we have value and worth? How different would the world be if more people heard that? To know that they mattered. That they were seen and not forgotten? 

Just think of all the unopened treasure chests there are in this world. Maybe we should each take the time to notice.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Baptism, Armor, & A Papa's Blessing


Before the start of his ministry, Jesus went to the River Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John the Baptist. As he was coming out of the water, the Spirit of God came down like a dove and a voice from heaven spoke, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." Before Jesus could start his ministry, he needed his Father's blessing. He needed affirmation from God. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke this baptism and God's blessing of His Son is followed by the Spirit leading Christ into the wilderness. The Greek word for "led" is more correctly translated as "impel," which has much more force behind it. Jesus is impelled by the Spirit to the wilderness where he will fast for forty days. During those forty days, he will be tempted daily by Satan, though we are only told specifically of three. Why did God need to bless and affirm His Son's identity? Because that would be the very thing that Satan would come to question in his temptations of Christ. "If you are the Son of God," he always begins. But because Jesus had His Father's affirmation, He understood who He was in God and that is where His identity lay.

How many sons and daughters never received such a blessing from their own fathers?  How many became lost in identity because they did not understand whose they were or that their father blessed their identity?

When Benjamin was born, the first thing I did upon holding him was to whisper a prayer of blessing in his ear over his life. Then, each person who came to visit us in the hospital or when we first got home, before I ever handed Benjamin to them, I asked them to do the same. This is a Middle Eastern custom I had read about that I wanted for my own son. I wanted everyone who came in contact with him to bless him.

A father blessing their son is seen throughout the Old Testament, but when God does so for His only Son then how can I not do likewise with my own sons? Is this not a model I should follow?

Too many fathers don't. Their children grow up without hearing those words they so desperately crave, "I'm proud of you." I cannot even count the number of times Benjamin has heard this over his sixteen years or Cava now has since we adopted him almost four years ago.

Another image from scripture that comes to my mind when I think of this, is when David is told to go and take food for his brothers, who are fighting in Saul's army. It's a humbling task for David, who probably longed to be in battle himself and, during the long, boring hours spent in the field with sheep, probably imagined himself a soldier in battle. Yet he is an errand boy taking his brothers their meal. Yet when he gets to the Israelite camp, he finds his brothers, all of the other troops, and even the King hiding from the taunts of the Philistine giant, Goliath.

What happens when David offers to fight Goliath?

Saul tried to put David in his own armor.

Though Saul is not David's father, I could not help but get a picture of so many parents, including myself sometimes, when we try to mold our children into who we think they should be instead of who God is wanting them to become. We cannot put our children in our armor (or our ideas of who we think they should become or what they should do).  One of the hardest prayers I have ever prayed was in giving my sons completely to God: for His plan for their life.

As their Papa, it is my job to guide and instruct, but it's also to affirm who they are becoming. This is especially true of Benjamin, who will be going off to college in two years. I tell him how proud I am, not just of his accomplishments, but, more importantly of who he's becoming in terms of his character and his walk with God.

When I affirm who he is and who he's becoming then what I am doing is putting his future into the light of God's perspective. "Who you are and what you do," I remind him, "should all be for the glory of God." It is helping him to see that success is not to be viewed through the lens of our culture. True success is not the amount of stuff he has or money he makes, but the amount he loves and gives himself to others in order that they might see the love of Jesus through him. I am preparing him for when he leaves us so that he has a better sense of who he is in Christ. Blessing and affirming him is rooting him in where his strength will come from when he faces trials and tests and failures.  Just as Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness, he will come to Benjamin when he is out of our home. When he hears that sly whisper of suggestion, I want him to know that he is not who the world says he is, but who God says he is; redeemed through the blood of His Son, of great value and worth, precious and righteous.

Also, when I bless them it shows that I know who they are and about their dreams, goals and desires. I see their uniqueness in the way God created them differently from myself. I see their strengths and their weaknesses. I see their gifts and their talents. I see them as individuals. By affirming them, I am letting them know that I notice, I understand and that I bless their identities in Christ. I do this for my sons and would do the same if I had daughters.

I pray this blessing over Benjamin.

I will pray his own blessing over Cava.

They will not be the same prayers because they are not the same kids.

How much time I have with them on this earth, I cannot say. But in that time, I want them to know that their Papa loves them, is proud of them and blesses the men they will become.