“To make [people] feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.” –John Piper, don’t waste your life
As of this week, I have a middle schooler. She was so excited about having a locker that she spent the weekend timing herself unlocking the lock until she could twirl that three-digit code in four seconds flat. I’m glad she loves it so far, despite the fact that adults have universally responded with groans, complaints, warnings, and eye rolling every time the word middle school has been mentioned her presence. Granted, even for those who had a relatively mild experience, few of us look back on sixth through eighth grade as the golden years of our lives. Still, I don’t think it’s doomed to be the worst. The other night at open house, when I saw groups of preteens gathered in their various stages of development and orthodontia, comparing schedules and worrying about their hair, I wanted to gather them in my arms and tell them all it would all be okay.
This past summer, our family started going through a devotional book on God’s Names. As we learned about El Shaddai (God Almighty), Adonai (Strong Creator), Jehovah Saboath (Lord of Hosts), and the many names in the Bible to describe a God as great as ours, I pondered one of the greatest lies of the dominant culture of my generation. Through movies, music, and education we were taught the greatest love of all is learning to love ourselves and there is a hero inside of us, that the greatest purpose in life is to fulfill our dreams and that the only thing that stands in the way of being beautiful, smart, and talented is our inability to see ourselves that way.
I’m not saying that confidence is a bad thing nor prescribing low self-esteem. Instead, I’m saying that my prayer is that my children and I would learn to put our confidence in the one who is far more reliable, trustworthy, and glorious than self. I pray that when life and relationships and choices are challenging, they won’t have to depend on their ever changing emotions or a sense of identity that is still developing, but they would be able to turn to the unchanging, merciful, and capable arms of their God who is their strong tower, savior, and friend.
The funny thing about the awkwardness of middle school is that it never quite leaves us completely. It gets pushed down under the surface of degrees and accomplishments and accolades and all the ways we try to make a name for ourselves, but it still sometimes rears it’s ugly head. I sometimes feel my inner sixth grader rising up when I go into a new situation and I’ve discovered that all the pep talks in the world do nothing assuage my old fears. However, there is hope when I look to God; there really can be freedom from the tyranny of self-justification and self-promotion.
My prayer for my family and for myself is that we would learn to lift up our eyes and see a God who is mighty, omniscient, worthy of fear, and full of sacrificial love for his children. Then, we will find our worth in Him and be able to proclaim along with David the amazing paradox of God’s greatness and our worth because of Him, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them glory and honor.” (Psalm 8: 3-5)