Her comments caught me off guard to say this least, one evening as she was getting ready for bed.
“Why am I like this? I wish I was different.”
I paused, blinked twice, and pondered her thoughts. Was she saying, as she normally does, that she didn’t like something about her circumstance? Was there a little sister (or three) that she wanted to trade for a kitten? Or was she frustrated with her lame parents, who wouldn’t let her get that texting app on her Kindle Fire, giving her perceived unlimited access to her friends?
No, this was not the same, and was significantly more gut wrenching for her mother. This was a legitimate lack of confidence in the person that my oldest daughter was growing to be. The tiny human that I had once swaddled into a baby burrito and rocked through her colicky nights was now finding significant fault with herself as a creation. The former preschooler who skipped around the playground without a care in the world was now starting to realize that there were some things that she really didn’t like about herself. And what was worse, she thought she was trapped with these traits; they were stuck to her like an old scar for all of her days to come.
After removing the dagger that her comments lodged in my chest, I asked her to explain. Upon further extrapolation, I learned that certain sensitivities were the cause of her angst this evening. Everything from noises to foods to clothes to comments from teachers, my daughter feels to her core. Her ears, skin, stomach, and heart are all equally sensitive, experiencing all sensations and emotions at a heightened level.
“I don’t understand why I have to be this way. Why was I made to feel everything, all the time?”
Since this evening, my reflection has been this: How do we teach confidence and faith that God created us in His image? And that, regardless of what the world says, we are precious in God’s sight?
The majority of parenting books claim that when you see an issue presenting in your child, the most likely place to look for the cause is inward. Turning the mirror on myself brought a startling conclusion. I myself struggle to believe that deep down, God is pleased when He looks at me. If I want my children to know that they are truly understood and loved by their Creator, but I don’t believe it myself, how effective is my lesson?
If I ever have a disagreement or a struggle with another person, I am quick to discuss it with my husband or a close friend. After describing the events to a listening ear, I follow my story with a quick, sarcastic laden, “Well, I’m delightful, so I must not be causing this issue!” I certainly don’t believe that statement, but instead, want to take the focus off my insecurities and hope no one else notices.
What may seem like a pretty benign comment, or at least a small diversion from the truth of the moment, has served as my reminder that I need to remove the sarcasm from my voice. Though I should never turn a blind eye to my own shortcomings, I do need to believe, deep down, that I am delightful to our Creator. Because, if I don’t believe in the beauty of God’s design for myself, how should I expect my daughters to believe it about themselves?
Like my oldest, I also err on the sensitive side. I know that, both a few decades ago and yesterday, I had a similar inner dialogue. These thoughts haven’t left me completely, well into adulthood. But, I have learned to channel my sensitivities for good, both for myself and for the people entrusted to my care.
In some of my diagnostic seminars in graduate school, our professors walked us through the process of creating a list of differential diagnoses based on the patient’s history, presenting symptoms, and our own assessment findings. The trick with caring for living creatures is that you can’t always create a flawless algorithm for reaching a particular diagnosis. Sometimes, or even most of the time, you just have to feel it. On many occasions, my sensitive nature allowed me to think outside our protocol and deep into the heart of my patients, which I might not have been able to do if God had created me differently.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
God has made each of us, in His image, to fulfill His will on earth. Some of us are shorter, smarter, more impatient, clumsier, and yes, more sensitive than others. Throughout my life, I’ve learned to use my sensitivities as my superpower instead of my kryptonite. In caring for others at their sickest moments, I use my perceived shortcomings to be in tuned with my patients and notice even the smallest alteration in their physical presentation.
And what greater gift do we have as parents than to guide and teach our children to do the same with traits God has given them?
[Image Credit: Used with permission by Robin Chandler Photography]