Our eldest birdie is about to fly the nest. I have a lot of feelings about this, but I discovered a most excellent coping mechanism: projects. Lots and lots of projects requiring lots and lots of lists. When I have projects, I don’t have time to stop and think about what is about to happen.
As she neared graduation, I threw myself into planning a graduation party she didn’t really want, although she graciously acknowledged my love for planning and hosting and celebrating, so she went along with it. I was swimming in craft paper and glitter and ribbon, and I could dedicate an entire post to my new Cricut cutting machine. I loved every second. (And, for the record, it was a GREAT party and she had a lot of fun.)
At the top of my Party Planning To-Do List was a digital slideshow of pictures from her birth to graduation, set to music. Important note: I documented the first six years of her life with cropped photos and clever layouts in all manner of acid-free scrapbooking glory without the use of a digital camera. For six years, I turned in rolls of 35 mm film to Walgreens, and I’m pretty sure I forgot to order duplicate prints. Which translates to this: to create a digital slideshow, I had to peruse six years’ worth of scrapbooks and scan the best pictures with an iPhone that did not even exist when those pictures were taken. And if you remember the scrapbooking craze of the early 2000s, we cut every picture into circles and ovals and stars and hearts and then matted them on adorably patterned acid-free paper—which makes for a darling layout, but does not lend itself well to scanning.
Thankfully, we bought a digital camera in 2005, so the remaining twelve years are responsibly archived on a portable hard drive and painlessly transferred into PowerPoint. Hallelujah, technology.
As I scanned and uploaded eighteen years of pictures, I realized that I am not mourning the loss of her childhood because she has not been a little girl for a very long time. Her baby pictures, her toddler pictures, her early school years—I saw innocence and joy, delight and security. That little girl had no doubt she was fully and completely loved. She was free and confident and fearless.
Until she wasn’t. Perhaps only her momma would notice, but I can easily pinpoint the pictures where her smiled changed and the light left her eyes. Those were really hard years.
I think this happens to all of us at some point. Most of us are born into families where we are adored and celebrated and cared for. As babies, we are fed and held, and that alone assures us we are loved. We grow into childhood hearing we are special, limitless, treasured. That kind of affection explains the fearlessness of children: the mismatched clothes and crazy hair, the princess tea parties and pirate adventures, the “look at me, Momma, look! Watch me! WHEEEEEE!” That security is rooted in the belief we are wholly and unconditionally loved. When we know we are loved, we have the confidence to live into ourselves, to fully express our deepest joys. When we know we are loved, we don’t fear punishment or scorn or judgement. We live with abandon and delight because we believe we are endlessly loved.
And somewhere along the way, we stop believing it.
Our disbelief could happen slowly, like trickling creek erodes the rock—incremental careless words, rejection, failure. Or it could happen with a single traumatic event, like a divorce or a death. However it happens, we turn our ears to the lying voices that tell us we are not worthy of love. Our tender hearts become stained and poisoned with fear, and we begin thinking and responding from a place of fear instead of a place of Love. We exit the realm of confidence and security, and we walk into a prison of doubt and insecurity.
Consider the Genesis narrative of creation: God created man and woman and blessed them. They “felt no shame” (2:25); they lived in wholeness and with peace. Then the serpent caused Eve question God’s goodness—essentially, “if he really loves you, why would he lie to you?” And it goes downhill from there.
I have come to believe that at its most basic, stripped-down root, most anger, selfishness, jealousy, bad behavior and poor choices come from this fear of being unloved. We’ll explore this idea in the next post. For now, reflect on this:
Do you remember a time or circumstance of knowing you were completely loved? How did that affect your thoughts and actions?
Do you remember a time or circumstance of doubting that you were loved? What was the result?
How do you think fear leads to anger, selfishness, and bad behavior?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – comment below!
Next: The prison of fear>