My husband and I marvel at the vast personality differences in our four children. One boy is responsible and quiet. Another is brilliant and tech-y. The baby girl is dramatic and fun. And tucked into the middle is a boy who is energetic and athletic.
And very sensitive.
Once, in an intense season of overwhelm, he found me before bed.
“Mom?” he asked tentatively. He wrapped his arms around my waist and I stiffened. It took everything in me not to pull away.
“I just want to sit with you and hug you and never let go. Because you seem so lonely.”
And I was undone because … how did he know?
In the hiddenness of motherhood, I had pushed my children and husband away with days of silence, using my selfishness as a catalyst for relational isolation. What child risks the clothesline shutdown of trying to talk to angry-mom? When she’s trying to get ready for bed??
The sensitive kind.
Because it takes courage to be so.
His sensitivity is raw and unrefined as of yet. I treasure the times it presents itself in such life-giving ways. But, as with any personality gifting, a maturing has to happen to make a child able to walk in their gifting in ways that glorify God and bless the body of Christ, because the flip-side weakness of any gift is always available for cultivation as well.
In a great cultural pendulum swing, we seem to be moving away from our grandparent’s dismissive attitude toward “all the feels” and heading toward the landslide that is “Feelings ARE Truth”.
In the past we may have been obsessed with our outward behavior to the neglect of our heart, but now we are encouraged to access and collect many feelings and use them to define who we are. They need not be based on any truth outside of ourselves, because individual truth is infallible. I say this to our shame, for this approach to relationships is equally as isolating and destructive as pretending we have no feelings.
My husband and I desire to raise our ultra-sensitive child to embrace his gift, yet not be consumed with the life offenses that could render it ineffective. To that end all of our children are encouraged to speak their emotions respectfully, knowing that our home is a safe place to just BE. We want feelings to be exactly what they are: just feelings. A flag signaling something deeper.
Some feelings and emotions get to sit longer at the table. Others are heard, recognized and then dismissed because they either: promote self-pity and wallowing (*ahem* preaching to myself), or they simply are toxic and untrue and need not be allowed to stay a minute longer.
This is not about always being happy, nor am I a fan of the “obey all the time, right away, with a cheerful heart” policy. There is room for those discouraged, irritable times.
But danger creeps in when children are allowed to wield their emotions like a sword to keep grace and truth and humility at bay.
They need to know they are more than their self-absorbed feelings; that Christ is stronger than their unstable emotions.
How empowering for them to know that in Him we CAN have self-control, are ABLE to respond with kindness, are STRONG enough to be gentle and BRAVE enough to do hard things!
This truth is for all ages! But why start when we move out of our parent’s house?
As fellow traffic controllers for all the possible emotional collisions of the household, I encourage you to speak the truth boldly and with authority. Avoid the lie that kindness equals unchallenged acceptance. See and acknowledge the seeds of maturity in your children but do not allow them to live their pre-adult lives without your instruction.
Celebrate victory no matter how small. Encourage the little saplings in your home, thankful that you get to see the micro-growth and pray their roots into yet deeper soil.
It is that simple.
And that hard.
This is our calling; it is hearty and worth the effort.
“Mommy? I wrote this for you,” he smiled his seven-year-old gap-toothed smile and slipped me a ragged edge of notebook paper that said simply, “mommy i love you. you or lovle.”
More than a sweet note, those words laid me bare in that moment. The day had been long with three boys and a nursing baby. I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could wrap myself in comforting guilt and sleep away the few hours I had until the midnight feeding. Caught between the crushing weight of responsibility and the acute awareness that I wasn’t strong enough, I had reacted in anger to that trapped feeling; my harsh tone all but accusing my children of putting me there.
I was not lovely. I was not loveable.
But God gave my little boy eyes to see the conflict in me rather than the ugly anger.
Through my son, He reminded me that He is the God who “gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they are.” Romans 4:17
Grace to you, mama.
You are lovely.
And you are so loved.