One Sunday morning a few years back, I was dropping off my youngest at the door of her Sunday school classroom. As usual, before I released her into the care of another, I bent to her level and asked that she “give me her eyes” so could I review a list of last-minute instructions. They were the same every week, “Obey your teacher, listen to the Bible story, ask to go to the bathroom, and be a blessing”. By the end of the list, my student/child was impatient. She scrunched her preschool face, pushed my hands away, shouted “I AM a blessing!”, and stomped into her classroom.
An hour later, we did get a good report from the teacher, and had a good laugh at the irony.
Over years of parenting, teaching school, and being me, this memory has resurfaced often. Many times, I’ve been reminded of the dangers of taking the commandment “Be a blessing” and twisting it into “I am a blessing”. The enemy prompts us to change the words “Be a” which require something of us, to “I am” which is self-centered and demands a response from others. This shift of linguistics is subtle, yet derails our hearts.
And don’t we see this posture everywhere? Teenagers, corporates, homemakers, and preschoolers are all pushing and stomping their way through life. Our culture encourages us to turn inward, find our own “I AM”, and shout it above all the other noise. Frustration and anxiety abound because no one is listening. Everyone is too busy shouting their own “I am” montras. Even Christians are guilty of making too much noise at times, shouting, “I AM Christian, I AM an image bearer, I AM forgiven, I AM loved…” We, along with the rest of the world, don’t stoop often enough in order to “Be a”. Shouldn’t I, who has Christ within, lay down my “I AMs” and BE a follower of Christ, BE an image of God’s character, BE free in my own forgiveness to forgive others, BE lovely in His name? We cling too tightly to and shout too loudly our I AMs. No wonder there is no peace. No wonder there is no joy. No wonder others don’t know Him. No wonder.
As a result of these reflections, my motivations have deepened and my parental “hallway talks” have changed. For example, that same daughter, who is now a sweet ten-year old, came to me in the heat of some social pain. In her self-defense, she rattled off a list of “I AMs”. After the listening, crying, and hugging, I held her loosely and talked slowly, “Your I AMs are true, and you did a good job naming them. Now you need to let them go.” With this, she scrunched, but remained in my arms. I asked that she give me her eyes as I continued this new list of instructions, “Be obedient to God, even when it’s hard. Be last. Be a good listener. Be helpful. Be encouraging. Be the one to go toward someone who is unlovely and be her friend. In these quiet ways, in His strength, you will be a blessing, and receive His joy. And who knows? By watching you, one of your friends may know Him better.”
I see this struggle in my life, also. Far too often, I find myself in classrooms, party rooms, and living rooms with an attitude that’s demanding attention, accolades, and autonomy. I make way too much noise and my stiff neck refuses to bend in order to listen. My diseased heart shouts, “I AM intelligent! I AM special! I AM important!” and God laughs at the irony. It’s Grace when He pulls me aside and asks for the eyes of my heart. It’s truth when He reveals my utter depravity. It’s love when He stoops me low enough to change my view. Only then can I see the needs of others and am motivated to BE wise, to BE especially kind, and to Be humble.
Are you scrunched and stomping? What are you shouting?
Be in the hallway. Be still. Be His. Be a blessing…
…so others may know the only One who is worthy of saying, “I AM”.