~ by Dena Douglas Hobbs
I have middle school aged children now. My daughter has just finished her first year and my son will start in the fall. This baffles me, for it seems like just yesterday I was the one in middle school worrying about what my hair looked like and what people thought of me as I walked down the hall. Now it is my children walking down those halls of uncertainty and morphing identity.
My kids are talkers, for which I am ever grateful. They come home from school and tell me all about who said what and who likes who and all the other good gossip a tween can come up with. I listen and make commentary. My commentary is not necessarily wise. It usually is something like, “No, she did not say that!” or “Wow, did they break up again?” I am hoping the listening is what matters in most cases.
But I have recently been reminded that I am not the only one doing more listening. As my children age, they are increasingly listening to what I say. Okay, maybe they act like they are not listening when I talk to them, but when I talk to other people and they are nearby, they are totally listening.
And the sad thing is that they don’t always like what they hear.
Like when I told my husband I needed to buy some newer, nicer outfits because a friend chided me, “You can’t wear yoga pants forever you know.”
Or when I complained that I had to update my hairstyle because since I’ve gotten braces everyone tells me I look 15 again. (You would think that would feel like a compliment, but it really doesn’t when you are at an age in life where you want to be taken seriously).
After a few of these comments where I worried and fretted over what other people said or thought about me, my daughter lost it. She offered some on point commentary of her own.
“Your self-esteem problem is really starting to bother me. You need to just be okay with who you are and not care what other people think.”
Whoa. Is this Freaky Friday? Did a middle schooler just say those words to her mom?
Although I was grateful my kid had the wisdom and wherewithal to say these words, they also served as a huge wake up for me.
Why was I worried so much about what other people think? Was I really stuck in some middle school like identity crisis?
It seems I had forgotten where my identity comes from. That it is not shaped by my clothing, my hair, or what any earthly person thinks of me.
No, my true identity is rooted in Christ. For I am a beloved daughter of God.
Whether I am wearing yoga pants and Chacos or whatever is actually considered fashionable (what that is I honestly don’t know), I give God the same delight. And God doesn’t care whether I have braces at 40 or not. I think God is more caught up with the joy and praise that go with my smile.
So I am recommitting myself to rooting my identity in Christ’s grace-filled love. A love that does not change based on bad hair days, stupid mistakes, or even great successes.
I need to anchor myself in God not only for my own sake, but for that of my children. For if I don’t model for them how to anchor themselves in Christ’s grace and love, how will they make it through the storms that are sure to come in the next few years?
So I am going with a new motto,
Just Be You.
The “You” that God created with such purpose and joy.
And I’m inviting my kids to join me.
I’ll wear my Chacos, my daughter can wear her summer wedges, and my son will wear the same old grungy tennis shoes he always wears. As long as all our feet are rooted in Christ’s love, I think we’ll be walking down the halls of life just fine.
Dena Douglas Hobbs is the author of the advent devotional, Lighten the Darkness and blogger at Centering Down (denadouglashobbs.com). She is a former United Methodist minister, an active Episcopalian, and is helping plant a Presbyterian Church (She claims not to have a denominational identity crisis, she just finds beauty in churches of all forms). She is raising her two tween children in Middle Georgia with the help of her husband Jason and two hound dogs.