My son, Chris, and I were watching a TV show or movie recently, with Charlie. It was probably Curious George or another cute PBS show for toddlers. At some point towards the end of the movie (or whatever it was) one of the characters advised the other -- the one with the main problem -- to believe in himself.
I wish I could remember what show it was. I'm trying, but I just can't pinpoint it. It doesn't matter though; believing in yourself is the proverbial message behind many a children's program.
Sometimes, I just let it go; sometimes I don't. This particular time I said, "I never understand what that means. Believe that you exist? Well, obviously you exist.
Does it mean to believe you can do something you can't? But what if you really can't?"
Instead, he explained, "believing in yourself is the opposite of believing in Jesus.
Chris, who's eight now, broke-in to my monologue, assuring me that it's not about the fact of one's existence. "Instead," he explained, "believing in yourself is the opposite of believing in Jesus. Instead of trusting Jesus for everything, you trust yourself."
He is right; self-esteem is not the universal truth Disney-style TV has made it out to be. And yes, as you may be wondering, he came up with that response organically on his own as far as I could tell. To say I was surprised would be understating it.
He spoke thoughtfully, as though he had been considering the topic well-before I brought it up that day. "I only ever hear that on TV," he continued. "And everyone knows you can't believe everything you hear on TV or in movies."
A couple of takeaways
I'm no theologian or teacher, really. I try to be careful about drawing obvious conclusions -- or at least about revealing my conclusions -- here. This just isn't meant to be a how-to site. Still, I will take a minute to list a few reasons this particular exchange encouraged me.
As the children age it is wonderful to see in them new signs of maturity, of forming their own thoughts, personalities, and understanding of the world. I long for signs that they are increasingly capable of being a part of the world and of going out from their parents' protecting care. As Chris explained his point of view to me that day, the Lord gave me a wonderful glimpse of the fruit I long for in my little ones.
This wasn't a planned talk or a big event. No, it was just a regular conversation in the normal course of our daily lives. This is what the children remember most; this is what stays with them -- the normal day-to-day stuff.
Believing in yourself is the proverbial message behind many a children's program.
Someone said something once that has stuck in my mind and will probably be something I recall in old age, even if demented. She was explaining respect to us young, black children and why it was so important for us to help and to be helped by other African-Americans. She said, to my utter surprise, "because they look like us."
It is my hope that my children know that this is not what the Lord has called us to. And it is my hope that my children will train their children to make much of our Creator (in whom is all our real value) and end this pervasive, though evil, legacy of fickle, self-determined value.
This exchange, for me, was a glimpse into our future selves, a quick picture of the relationship my son and I will have as he and I grow older. He will gradually go from being my son and dependent to being a brother in the Lord, to whom and from whom I can expect to give and receive the same encouragement I do from the rest of the Body. This time he wasn't answering questions on a test or trying to impress me, or anyone, in any way. He answered me seriously, warning me as he would anyone, "don't believe everything you hear."
You cannot, in fact, do everything you set out to do. It's not your lack of positivity; it's your human limits.
It has been said that you can do anything you put your mind to. Positive thinking is all you need. Where there's a will there's a way. You can move mountains.
You cannot move a mountain. You cannot, in fact, do everything you set out to do. It's not your lack of positivity; it's your human limits. You just can't do certain things -- fly, for instance, and walk on your head and pick up a mountain, say, or a 747.
God can move a mountain. He can choose to do so with your hands. That is completely within the realm of possible occurrences. You, a plain human, getting up and acting outside of the bounds of your own biology is not. And that's fine.
Actually, it's more than fine. It's good.