"I'm not good at that." It started with small, little snippets of self-doubt. I should have noticed. I should have stopped it sooner. I'm her mother, after all….unfortunately, I'm also really gifted in the art of negative self-talk. Maybe I missed it because what should have been a red flag has been given a space on my shelf, a narrative I frequently read and accept as normal.
It took flares of anger, where self-hate spewed out of my sweet girl like a volcano I assumed was dormant. I was shocked. I argued back--NOTHING you are saying about yourself is true! You are so beautiful, loved, wonderful, and talented! Words I felt like I spoke often, helpless to counter the lava that flowed from within.
I cried into my journal, praying for wisdom, shocked by how young she was and how quickly the world's meanness had slithered into my baby's identity. I've failed. I'm a terrible mother. How could I have let this happen…..
My hand froze as self-awareness seized me: There was similar hot lava coming out of me.
My pen hovered over my journal. My prayers shifted. First, I needed to repent for my own self-hate. I needed to fight that tendency in ME. It was time to stop teetering on a shifting, unstable foundation of hypocrisy, spastically throwing her a life preserver. But how?
I heard the truth whispered in my spirit: "The power of life and death is in the tongue. Those who love it will eat its fruit". The Message version is even more impactful:
"Words kill, words give life. They are either poison or fruit. You choose." (Proverbs 18:21)
It was time to stop feeling guilty and hopeless. It was time to speak life into our home.
I walked into my little girl's room while she was at school and laid down on the bed we had recently bought--a bunk bed with lots of space for my almost ten-year-old to have giggly sleepovers with her besties. As I laid down on the bottom bunk, my eyes settled on the boring slats that held the top mattress. If you're an artist, every space is a blank canvas. I had an idea.
I texted several friends who love my daughter like their own. "I need y'all to pray for a word that will speak life into Selah." As they rolled in, I commissioned a lettering artist to sneak into my house on Selah's birthday and write those truth bombs: one on each slat of the view she looks at as she goes to sleep and when she wakes up, where she lays to read and daydream. Words of life and encouragement in her face to start and end her day—a birthday gift of new identity written in gold.
I know there is more to overcoming an identity crisis than one simple change. It's a thousand intentional shifts. This art became a battle stance in my parenting. I would tuck her in and remind her she is a joy bringer. She walks in peace. She is strong, sublime. It reminded me of the beauty God has woven into us as His children.
We are parenting a generation of kids beaten down by the world around them. They are constantly critiqued and have a heightened awareness--blasted by technology and social media. Their world is noisy, so hearing gentle encouragement may be hard for them. We need to spend some time digging out the inner hate monster in our own life so we will be sensitive enough to notice when it is growing in the people around us. We need to slow down so we will have the bandwidth to be curious. We need to set our minds to encourage the treasures that curiosity uncovers. It's time to pay attention to what we are consuming: we are so distracted that many days, we mindlessly graze or even binge on poison, slowly killing beautiful and unique parts of us. There is fruit, and it is GOOD. We can speak life and choose to become the passionate, joyful, beautiful human God saw when He slowly and intentionally knit uniqueness into us from the beginning. THAT is an orchard we can pass on to the next generation.