Our culture’s over-attention on the self is a problem. We get it. We parents fight the “Me, me, me, ME!” mantra chanted by our cherubs all the time and everywhere.
We do our part to combat it by pouring into our kiddos, “It’s not about you, it’s about God,” themed Bible stories over and over.
However, the Bible is a nuanced book. Just when we think we’ve got the it’s-all-about-God messaging down, the Author of the Bible diverts our attention back to one of His favorite topics: us. People. His beloved creation. You and me. And certainly our kids.
Case in point is a least likely spot of dry-reading genealogies (Chronicles), where what to our wondering eyes should appear but David going off on one “selfie” that God would like our kiddos to take to heart.
SELFIE #1: You are loved.
A lot. Like, more than you think and probably more than you can wrap your head around.
In fact, before our kids can declare I-love-God in a deeper experience than churchy jingle ways, they’ll need to catch on to the inordinate, overwhelming insistence from this God that first comes love not for God, but for them.
That’s what happened to David.
He loved God and wanted to build a temple for God. Then God turned it back around on David with a “don’t build for me, I’ll build for you,” kind of response.
David was amazed. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O Lord God.” (1 Chron 17:16-17).
The most exalted of men? Sound like David’s getting the big head here?
He’s not. Not by God’s standards.
This is a distinction we have to teach our shorties. David could not diminish himself with, “I’m insignificant,” nor could David aggrandize himself with, “I’m a baller.”
It’s not an easy balance to strike. The Author of the Bible didn’t think so either, given the whole thing is outlined a few hundred pages prior in 2 Samuel. Just in case the audience at home is slow on the uptake, the Author runs through it twice.
Parents have to find a way to convey this to our kiddos: what are you to the Lord?
A lot. You are a lot. Just as you are, you are loved, and as you grow in confidence of that love, you can both let go and hang on and grow grow grow in every way that matters most.
God doesn’t need our kiddos’ praise or good behavior or validation or even faith – though all of that is good, very good. God needs our kiddos first and foremost to receive His love, and then everything is borne from that.
Which segues nicely to another “selfie” God wants our kiddos to claim.
SELFIE #2: You are worth dying for.
What started with a covenant with Abraham, when God promised to cut Himself into pieces to cover for promises broken, and then climaxed with Jesus doing just that, and then peaked even more dramatically with a resurrection that we will one day see on earth as it is in heaven…well, it was for you.
You are worth dying for.
“But I’m whiny, I’m failing, I’ve lied, I’ve stolen, I love the wrong things, I hate the wrong things, I do the wrong things, I don’t understand it all at all!”
He knows. Still, you are worth dying for.
Parents must spend months and years and late summer night chats and early morning tears and after school snacks and conversations over and over that get kiddos to see this when they see themselves.
If that sounds like a monumental assignment for parents, it is. If that rattles your nerves, join the club. Every parent since the beginning of time has had to resist panic and tackle this in the same way: one step at a time.
We can take fair warning from the past. We’ve seen the carnage of some generations that blew off children’s emotions or failed to consider a child’s self-worth in ways that did not glorify God. How could it? These are His kids whom He loves.
On the other hand, the gratuitous ME-trumps-all love fest happening in our present generation is no prize either. Love with no boundaries is not love. It’s freefalling. That’s a misleading word because it sounds so fun! But it is notably light on the free and heavy on the falling.
David knew all about that, from his (many, many) regrettably undisciplined times, like when he was a neglectful father (1 Kings:6) or an overly big-headed leader (1 Chronicles 21:1). Our kiddos’ faith walks will likewise look bad, sad and make us mad, but we must equip them to soldier onward looking at the mirror, mirror on the wall and knowing who is worthy of the greatest love of all?
In God’s eyes, you are.
It has always been a complicated balance to reinforce kiddos’ self-worth without growing up self-absorbed kids. We can start with the basics that God used on His Bible characters over and over, no matter their age. We can instruct our kiddos that the two most important self-tidbits to know are: you are loved and you are worth dying for.
That, and also Snapchat streaks are stupid. Just saying.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership. For info on her upcoming book, “How Can I Answer My Kids’ Questions About God? (…since I barely know what I’m talking about),” contact firstname.lastname@example.org