“To be known and accepted are two of the fundamental needs a human has.” — Jennie Allen
My six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son usually play in the backyard as I prepare dinner after school.
I like to keep an eye on them through my cracked kitchen window. But on those days when the temperature is just right and we’re choosing between leftovers or easy dinners, we’ll head out to the front yard for some bike riding. Most of the time, it’s just my kids riding their big wheels up and down the street together. Sometimes my neighbor’s boys come outside and play as well. My son is immediately drawn into playing with them because like most boys, he prefers playing with other kids of his own gender.
Recently, we went outside for our playtime in the front yard. As I watched my kids start to play, I unfolded a chair, placed it on my driveway, and sat down in it to relax. My neighbor’s boys, both six, not too soon after ran outside. They quickly “huddled up” in their front yard to talk about how to play a game. One of the boys started shaking his arm very quickly, making gestures as to give instructions to the other. As the other boy tried to listen attentively, he couldn’t help but laugh at how silly his brother was. They both stopped and had a good laugh as they were about to begin their venture.
My son observed this.
He jumped off his bike that he was riding and ran over to try and “fit in” with joy and expectancy.
They didn’t notice him.
But I did.
He was so sad and disappointed. My heart broke for him.
It broke not only because he was excluded, but because he didn’t see all the love and adoration beaming from MY heart in his direction.
Not only did my heart break for him in that moment, but I was painfully reminded of my younger self. I could see my younger self, as I watched my son, also craving to be seen and acknowledged, wanting to belong.
At the age of 16, I was very involved with our church choir. I looked forward to choir practice activities because I lived in a less-than-two-fun-things-to-do-per-month small, country town. When we all got together for choir practice, we had fun. I thought we were really good friends.
One day on my way into Walmart, I spotted some of the girls from our choir, laughing and playing beside the store’s sliding doors. I anticipated our cheerful reunion because I just knew they would welcome me with a hug, like always. I assumed they would ask how I was and what I was up to like we did at our choir rehearsals.
I happily skipped towards them. “Hey guys, how are you?!” I asked.
They stopped laughing, looked at me, and then turned back and kept talking, like I wasn’t even there. I quickly spoke again, “Hey!” This time they didn’t even stop to look at me. They just ignored me.
I felt invisible.
I thought I was crazy for a moment.
How could they just ignore me? How could they be a friend in one moment and in another not see me? No hug or conversation? I was hurt and confused. I quickly ran in the store to try and escape those feelings, hoping they would go undetected.
Now here I was watching my son feeling invisible.
As I sat there in my lawn chair watching from the garage door, I felt the need to run to him. To get up and go rescue him the way I would’ve wanted to be rescued standing outside of the Walmart in my teenage years.
I wanted to pick him up, put my arms around him, and pour into him reminders of my love and affection towards him. To reassure him. To protect him. To restore him.
God noticed me watching my son and desiring to reaffirm my love for him that day, and He said to me in a gentle voice, “See? Now do you see how I feel about you? Now do you see how much I love you?”
I jumped up and paced back and forth. How could I have missed this? How could I not know this fact that my Father, my Creator, loved me unconditionally?
As I stood there, I apologized to God for forgetting this reality. I’ve read this truth in His Word, even if I forgot about it in my daily walk:
‘That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.
So don’t be afraid. I’m with you.
I’ll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west.’ ”
(Isaiah 43:4-7 — MSG)
Once upon a time, I knew how important I was to God. I don’t have to perform or try and fit in with Him or with anyone. He made me just the way I am. I am His child, and I am loved and accepted just for being me. His approval is all I really need.
Unfortunately, I didn’t remember this when I encountered my choir friends all those years ago, and I cannot shelter my son from the rejection of his peers like he experienced during our outside playtime. The one thing I can do to is to teach him about God’s love and that God will always see him when others don’t. I hope that he will eventually understand that seeing himself through God’s eyes is most important. However, I know that my son might still try to be visible to others even after my best efforts to guide him.
If this is ever the case, I pray that the Lord will remind my son — just like He reminded me — that He is always there watching over him and loving him unconditionally.