The other night as we drove in the car to a friend’s house for dinner, Benjamin asked me from the backseat, “Daddy, will they think I’m cute?” I glanced up in the rearview mirror to see his sweet little face, with a look of genuine concern, robed in a tie-dye t-shirt, grey shorts, and tennis shoes with red-colored calf-high socks.
As a father it just melts my heart, that little fragile boy, expressing his concern about how he will be received in an unfamiliar setting. And as his daddy, you’d give the world to protect him; the thought of him being harmed or made fun of causes me way more pain than it would if I were treated the same way.
Unfortunately, this desire for protection and approval has become so warped in our culture that we don’t allow our children to play games where there is a definite winner (and therefore a definite loser) for fear that someone will get hurt; in England some schools have banned “best friends” in public schools (if someone has a best friend, that means someone else is left on the sidelines); and we won’t send our kids out unless they’ve got the best clothes, the best kicks (shoes, people), and the coolest “whatever-it-is-at-the-moment” in their palm.
We want them to be accepted. We want them to be the star athlete, the best student, the standout (or at least right there in the mix), whatever.
But one thing to ponder, as Christians: if we are teaching our kids to follow Jesus, that necessarily means they will suffer rejection the majority of the their lives. They will be treated worse than Jesus. If they called Jesus bad names like “Satan,” how much worse things are they going to call your kids (Matt 10:25).
Rejection and failure are a part of life, especially for the Christian, so what our kids really need to see and hear from us is a twofold message about the reality of the difficulties they will face (there are winners and losers, rejection and disappointment, friends who snub you and things that don’t go your way no matter how hard you try, people will hate you for standing on Truth) and, second, the hope they have in Christ who overcame that same world (John 16:33). In him there is owned the kind of approval worth seeking.