Today you came to me sad and I wanted to comfort you. Your friends spoke of owning things you do not own, watching movies you do not watch, going to places you do not go, and wearing things you do not wear. Even in the telling, they spoke in ways you do not speak. You were feeling very sharply your “otherness” today.
But what comfort can I give you? How can I pull the sharp thorn of comparison from your tender flesh? Mothers don’t like to see their children hurt. My own heart wants to find the shortest path to the removal of your pain, a pain that spills over on to me because I remember being 13. And because I know you are being singled out for boundaries you did not set.
Should I comfort you by giving you the things that separate you from the well-provided, worldly-wise woman-girls at the lunch table? Not everything you do not have right now is a “no”—some things are just a “not yet.” So I might revisit what you’re ready for, not because I want your friends to like you, but because I want to give right things at right times. Your friends would have you believe that being different is an unbearable state, but I would have you believe otherwise.
Sweet child, study the way you are feeling today. Because I love you, I ask this of you: Lean into your “otherness”—learn the contours of its face, feel out the steady grip of its hand. Because I intend it to be your lifelong companion. It is a truer friend than those who surround you now.
More than I want your comfort, I want you to be an alien and a stranger. You are beginning to understand what that means—that not fitting, that dissonant chord, that unease in the midst of ease that has been the faithful travel companion of the children of God for millennia. And I rejoice in the faithfulness of the God who is showing you this truth.
Here is what you must come to see: What the lunch table calls your enemy, I call your friend. “Otherness” is a sensation not to be dulled or diminished, but to be cultivated and cherished.
So though it goes against every mothering instinct, I will not pull the thorn from your flesh, not because I want to withhold comfort, but because there is no true comfort in a lie.
This world is not our home. We are sojourners, travelers on our way to the only true comfort the human heart can know. I will not help you populate your life with things that lessen your grip on this reality.
Because I love you, yes. But because I love your heavenly Father above all else. And I will give an account to Him for whether I have raised citizens of Earth or citizens of Heaven.
I pray for you to be able to say with David that the boundary lines have fallen for you in pleasant places (Psalm 16:5-6). It is not a mindset that we reach with ease. But it is the mindset of someone who has learned the safety and joy of “otherness.” I am willing to give you the years you will need to learn this truth. I am trusting the Father to show you the comfort of being called His own.
There is no real comfort besides this.
Copyright © 2012 by Jen Wilkin. Used with permission.
For more parenting encouragement, join us in theaters on May 1 and May 3 for the release of Like Arrows.
Like Arrows explores the challenges and joys that come with raising children. Through a journey that unfolds over 50 years, Charlie and Alice discover the unmistakable power of family.Together, they learn that knowing and living by God’s Word is what brings transformation and hope to any family. To watch the trailer and find a theater near you, visit LikeArrowsMovie.com.
The movie is just the beginning. It serves as the perfect kickoff for our new parenting resource: FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting™. Find out more!