“He’s not eating! He’s spitting everything out”, she complained as she cuddled her ten month old son close. She looked tired and distraught. ‘What are you giving him?”, I asked. “Pureed veggies, potatoes and so on.” “Pureed how?” ” In a blender…smooth paste and put it before him.” “Have you tasted the pureed food?” “Yes, I didn’t like it.” “Then how will your child like it?” A week later she came back looking happier and refreshed. I had asked her to mash the food with her hands instead of putting it in a blender. Baby and mother were satisfied. ‘He likes the different textures’ she says. I nodded.
There was a time when we, as children, were ‘forced’ to play outside, experience the sun and the sand, feel with their fingers , listen to different sounds, experience life with all its textures and colors and smells, interact with other children, spend less time in front of a screen. We had to solve our own problems. We had to get our hands messy with paint, to know which colors when mixed together gave what color. We also had to know that if we messed up one painting paper, it would take ages before we got one again. We learnt to get messy, but also be careful. We grew up to be adults who can live without having to run back to our parents with scraped knees each time.
And our children can do it too, if we stop putting the idea into their heads that swiping their fingers over a screen are a good, non messy substitute for playing, coloring, reading , learning, any life skill for that matter. Watch them close enough, and you’ll see. The walls of the house echo with their laughter over something we would have maybe smiled at. They’re the first to notice colors, a nice dress you’re wearing, a change in décor, appreciate you singing, or dance to a tune. They hold nothing back. It takes very little but something authentic and genuine to excite them. They’re not afraid to say what they like. They’re not afraid to ask questions. They aren’t afraid to say when something’s wrong. They aren’t afraid to love- fully and deeply- ‘cos that’s how they’re wired- unless we tell them otherwise. Been around a toddler lately? You’ll know what I’m talking about.
Maybe I’ve said it before, but for some reason I feel like saying it again. Somehow, somewhere down the line, we’ve all become too careful. So careful that we sometimes cross that fine line between ‘being careful’ and ‘being fearful’. Afraid of anything and everything? ( Of course…we have a pandemic, the current state of world affairs etc to blame.)
Have you felt more comfortable staring at your phone screen and going on refreshing your newsfeed , even when the room is full of other adults (who’re also probably doing the same thing), than having an actual conversation? Familiar scene?
We’re afraid to ask questions, because we’re afraid we might get asked questions. We’re afraid to appreciate ,’cos what if that other person doesn’t think the same way. We’re afraid to hold hands and pray with people, ‘cos ‘what if I’m not that eloquent at praying out loud?’ We’re afraid of talking to our neighbors. We’re afraid of doing anything new. We’re afraid of using our resources to help someone else. We’re afraid of laughing out loud- the neighbors might hear, afraid of moving out of something that’s not been very helpful into something new, afraid of change, afraid of challenges, afraid of opening up about our struggles to people, ‘cos we’re afraid of their judgement and afraid of hurting our ego. We’re afraid of everything and everyone. We prefer the safety of our cozy homes, our routine lives, our ‘zones’, our busy-ness. We somehow have started to prefer life bland, ‘cos we’re afraid textures might hurt.
I’ve been giving in to these fears too. I’ve been just learning my way around the kitchen these past few months, and when for the first time I put a pressure cooker on the stove, I stood outside the kitchen when the whistle blew because in my mind I ‘knew’ I might not have done it right and it would burst any moment and all the neighbours would come in to see food smeared all over the walls. ( Thankfully that didn’t happen) I stopped writing for a bit, because I simply couldn’t get over these thoughts of-‘what will these blogs come across to people who read them? What would they be thinking?’ As a doctor treating children, I’ve been terrified to give any sort of advice to parents, ‘cos I imagine a scenario in my head, where one of these parents might just turn around and ask me one day, ‘Hey you don’t have any kids yet. You’re so young. What would you know?’
So these kind of thoughts crippled me- Am I enough? Am I being criticized behind my back? Am I good at this? Can I do this? And this period of doubt took me back to my knees, in conversation with my Maker. I didn’t have many words to say, but tears asking forgiveness. ‘Cos I was reminded that I am falling short of loving my Lord completely and fully. My focus seemed to be on me, my reputation, my pride, my safety, all that pertains to me. But when I shifted my focus to my Saviour Jesus Christ again, I found these fears melting away in the light of how I can rest perfectly on His love for me, for,
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
And by the strength of the Holy Spirit, I can rise above my nonsensical fears and embrace a full life -in all its colours and textures- fanning my gifts into flame for His glory, loving my neighbour as myself, reaching out to my patients with confidence, extending hospitality, making conversations that matter, being the wife, daughter and sister He meant for me to be and more importantly responding to His call on my life. I can…so can you!
It isn’t easy because we live in a difficult world. Cruelly critical of everything. But let’s hold fast to this truth. Let’s hold fast to our faith and fall back on the strength the Lord gives us. If Peter, the apostle, had let his fears of what would happen if he drowned engulf him, he wouldn’t have had the privilege to walk on water looking at his Master’s face!
What fear torments your soul today? You know your fears better than anyone else in the world. Lay it at the feet of Jesus. Embrace the life He’s given you to live with courage and joy and to fulfill the purpose to which you are called- undaunted. There’s only one of you on this planet!
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (1 Timothy 1:7)
Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear
Has to face the God you know
One more day
He will make a way
Let Him show you how
You can lay this down (Oh my soul, Casting crowns)