by Vicki Diemert
My son walked into the house with tears in his eyes. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “Mom, you know how when kids are picking teams to play a game and it’s sad for the person that is the last one picked…well, I just wasn’t picked at all.” Be still my heart. I asked him to tell me again what happened, and in continued disbelief I had him relive it for me a third time. (I’m sure he was thinking, “What part of not being picked do you not understand?”) What is worse than being the last one picked… not being picked at all. Ugh. I often hear that being a mom is hard, but the hardest part of parenting are those moments when we see our kids suffer. I hate seeing my kids suffer! I would trade spots with them in a heartbeat. When Eli told me what happened, I wanted to go outside and have “a little talk with those kids.” I wanted to make it so he wouldn’t be sad. I wanted to save and rescue him from the arrows of the world that wound. His sadness and suffering meant sadness and suffering in my heart. I was affected by his suffering. My heart broke. Tears filled my eyes. There was some kind of shame that accompanied this rejection. And then something occurred to me. I had prayed for this. God was answering my prayer, because I had prayed for suffering in his life. When I told him that he asked, “Why would you do that?!” It sounds like a mean prayer. But this is what I know, suffering is inevitable. People get sick, people die, relationships end, there is betrayal, loss, rejection, anger and horrible wickedness that does not discriminate. How we respond and view suffering is critical. Here is what else I know, suffering can bring about gratefulness, compassion, empathy and conform us more and more into the image of Christ, or it can bring about bitterness, anger, hatred, disdain and so much more. What an amazing opportunity to have a moment to walk through suffering with my son. I couldn’t “fix it.” Nothing I could say or do would change what happened, but, I could affirm how sad it was that in not being picked, in essence he was rejected, and being rejected is painful. I let him see the tears in my eyes. I told him I loved him and that I cared that he was hurting. I did not try to make him feel happy or diminish his desire for acceptance from the neighborhood kids. I understand the sadness. It is not the way it should be. Kids shouldn’t be passed over in a street game.
At the center of his sadness was a desire to be accepted. Not being chosen is worth being sad about. How are we going to respond when we don’t get the acceptance we want from the people we want it from? As his mom, here is what I consider: If Eli finds his value in being accepted and chosen by other people, whose choosing is conditional on how they will profit (which is how the picking of street games go), then Eli is looking to get his value from the changing desires of flawed people. The other option is that he finds his value in what he does best. If it was a math game, he would have been the captain choosing kids to be on his team. Who would he have chosen? Would he have picked who he thought was the smartest in math? There is also danger when our value comes from what we do well. What if he can no longer do what he is best at? His being accepted would be at risk once again. If acceptance shouldn’t be based on the conditional qualifications of others, or on what he is good at, what should it be based on? I told him a story of another person that was rejected and knew how he felt, not to minimize or diminish his pain, but to let him know he is not alone. Jesus was rejected and betrayed by his closest friends at his greatest time of need. He can completely relate. Jesus was rejected so that we would be completely and unconditionally accepted before God. Human acceptance is always flawed and conditional. God’s acceptance and choosing is neither flawed nor conditional upon anything we can do, rather it is based solely on what Christ did for us. In this situation, what would it look like for Eli to live his life out of acceptance that comes through what Jesus did for him? For sure, he would still be sad about not being picked, but his experience lead him to compassion for others and not bitterness or hatred. It was ultimately an opportunity for him to consider the rejection Christ experienced on his behalf and thank Jesus for what He did. How did Eli feel toward those kids? Angry and frustrated. How did he decide that he was going to treat them? He wanted to include them whenever he could, after a bowl of ice cream of course. His experience lead him to love God more, and out of his love for God, he wanted to love others better. He became more aware of moments when other kids may be left out or not chosen. For Eli, it was a passing and momentary trial that had at its core a very significant desire. At the same time, there was an opportunity for this mom to simply mourn with him and to talk about the thing that mattered most in his life at that particular moment. (Note: Shared with Eli’s permission.)
Change and growth happen in those seemingly small and passing moments, in intentional conversations about the things that matter most. Here at BCA, we get suffering. We get it. It’s ugly. It’s painful. Although not being picked for a team with neighborhood kids may seem trivial compared to other trials, it is suffering none the less. Suffering and pain differ in degree and severity, but it all matters. We feel like we are stuck in a mud pit, lost in a cave, or we get overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning. Nothing is changing so hope for change seems like it is slipping away. There are so many things we can’t control and chaos follows closely. The majority of the time there are no clear cut answers. Like Joe said in a previous blog, sometimes the money never comes, the relationship ends, the family member dies. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and it isn’t okay in the end. Sometimes we need extra help to get through it all. Asking for help is hard. It’s humbling. Making the phone call to ask for help is scary… and feels risky, so we minimize the problem and try to handle it ourselves. But, know this, we would be honored and blessed to walk with you in your suffering and we would treasure the opportunity. We invite you to give us a call.