All day long my enemies insult me.
Those who ridicule me use my name as a curse.
~ Psalm 102:8, NOG ~
In the book THE HELP, set in early 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, a housekeeper named Aibileen carries out a subtext in the story line by supplying her homely charge, Mae Mobley, with the love she is so sadly lacking from her own mother. Each day, Aibileen rocks the young girl, counteracting her mother’s harsh discipline and dismissiveness, affirming her with the words, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Heartbreak mounts at the end of the story as Aibileen is fired, with Mae Mobley clinging to her leg, the reader anguished over who might now build up this poor child without such steady, loving affirmation in her life.
As the school year approaches, I feel the call to pour Aibileen-type affirmation into my children, especially our youngest. Having experienced bullying by peers, and harsh treatment by adults, she needs to know who she is in Christ. I feel a bit as if I am heading her into the lion’s den, as she heads back into an environment that tries with all its might to define her in a negative light. While certain classmates ostracize and call her names, God looks on this little imp He uniquely crafted and smiles. Though the school administration often has her in tears, viewing her as a problem, her Maker calls her a gift.
In biblical times, a name meant everything. Jacob, which means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter”, was named such in the Old Testament because he was born grasping his twin brother’s heel. Simon’s name was changed by Jesus in the New Testament to “Peter” meaning “the rock”. Even the many names of God have great significance behind them. “El Roi” means “the God who sees”. Haggar gave this name to the Lord when He saw her and her son nearly dying of dehydration, yet rescued them. “Jehovah Jireh” means “God the provider”. This name was given to Him by Abraham when He provided a ram to sacrifice on the mountain, rather than his son, Isaac.
While we may name our children in different ways today, there is still great significance in the names and labels our children carry. They can come to define our kids.
“Naughty”, “Bad”, “Stupid”, “Irritating” are not labels I want defining my child. Yet, even without speaking the words, so many adults almost indelibly inscribe these names on our children. “Liar”, “Cheater”, “Loser” are not names that describe my daughter. Yet, her peers have been known to brand her with such hatefulness. Many of these staff and kids alike have known her for such a short period of her life. Enduring friendships haven’t been afforded to such a unique child. Who are they to try to tell her who she is? Do they know what their demeanor does to her? Do they even care?
This school year, I pour God’s grace over my child, which acts as a non-stick coating, preventing those labels from adhering. And with the determination and love of Aibileen, I whisper her true value into her precious ear, lest she buy into the lies of those who would seek to define her. She is God’s masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made, for His good purposes. She is the sweet melody of a song sung, or a harmonica hummed, or a ukulele strummed carrying simple joy through each room of our home. She is the goofy laughter of a joke told, a facial expression worn, a silly outfit adorned, lightening the heaviness of each day. She is the tender caregiver of animals of every kind, the curious seeker, committing intricate details to memory because she learned from something she explored on the internet. She is athletic, and woodsy, and though she tries to hide her vulnerability, she is as delicate as the petals of a flower. She is a symphony of complexities, and I, I am the blessed one as I escort her through her early learning years to a fascinating future.
PRAY: Father, You know each of our names. You have numbered every hair on our heads. And even when the world seems so turned against us, trying to mock and diminish us, You tenderly remind us that we bear Your image. Remind us to pour that into our children today and every day that they are in our precious care.