Children are so care-free and happy. This blog has been inspired by a picture of my friend's baby that I was just looking at. Her baby is overjoyed and smiling a big, joyful smile. Eyes are squinted, all of her upper and lower teeth are showing a brilliant smile. You can see in her that she doesn't know or care what anyone thinks of her. She just is who she is an it is beautiful. I placed the picture above of my sister and myself when we were young. I was so into my ice cream that I didn't even know a picture was being taken! Oddly enough, we're sitting in front of a picture of a tree.
Teaching middle school, I see a lot of changes happen. I honestly can say that middle school is one of the most heart-breaking times to experience. I hated it when I went through it and it hurts me to see things happen to the students I work with. They often come into the 6th grade just being themselves not even knowing how they appear to other people or how others are judging them. Then, slowly, year by year, they learn that to make friends you have to look a certain way and act a certain way. And, even then, you aren't guaranteed real friends. You are just guaranteed people who will be around you mostly for their own personal gain. They want to be friends with the person who is popular because that might make THEM popular. I hate watching people lose themselves to other people because of how lonely it might be for them not to. Those who are daring enough to be themselves are often outcasts.
We start out as a tree. Children, to me, appear to be beautiful trees.
The world is literally their world! And they have no worries about branching out as who they are. They will play games and put on voices. They will laugh heartily at things they think are funny. And they just don't know better or what else the world is all about. For them, everything is as they see it. To an extent, that is a fantastic thing, because they are just being what God made them to be.
Then, as we get older, we become more in tune with the world around us.
Sometimes, it is through observation. Other times, it comes from somebody coming out and saying "that's weird" or "you can't be my friend if." There are also things that we do because we learn more about being considerate and realizing that life isn't all about you and your world. This is where the trouble begins. We start allowing and having to prune ourselves because pruning is important; yet, it is how and where to do it that becomes fuzzy. We don't know how to deal with things. People tell you what to do and who to be.
So, you start adapting more. You make yourself what you think you ought to be. But more people keep telling you what to be. And so you adjust more and more because nobody wants to be an outcast and nobody wants to be "weird"
There! You are now a trunk! Those branches weren't necessary anyway. They were just getting in the way of you being accepted and liked by others. Besides, beneath it all, everyone is just a trunk anyway. So, now, you fit in perfectly! Nobody can say anything to you about you being strange because there is nothing left to criticize. But is it pleasant being a trunk? What about those beautiful branches and leaves that once flowed freely and happily with the breeze?
Well, there is no time to think about that because there are too many other things to worry about. And you really don't want to be alone in the world. At least you are surrounded by others now. You know you have people you can depend on....or people who want to depend on you. And the more you give in to what people want you to be and tell you to be, the more (without realizing it) you allow them to cut away YOU. Until all that you are left as is a stump.
At least you are useful, right? Hmmm...but sad that you really miss the days of being able to be yourself. You miss the person you once were. What if you had never changed for anything?
There are some adults who stop caring and just do whatever they want to do or feel like. Unfortunately, that's not a pretty picture either.
They become a wild, overgrown mess that is neither pretty to look at nor of any use to anyone. To be useless to others and unproductive to anybody but yourself is only a deficit.
So, what are we to do? Have you felt, as I have felt, that you have allowed yourself to be cut away at too much? I have seen it happen too much. I cannot stand to see children lose themselves. Just because you are an adult doesn't mean that the you that was so vibrantly there as a child has to be gone.
I think, for me, I am finding that if I care about what the Lord wants and understand that there will be people who reject me for who I am, I am okay. Because then I will prune as a necessity so that I am not self-absorbed and useless. However, I have not allowed people to run me over to the point of feeling like and being nothing but a stump. The great thing about humans, unlike trees, is that we have the ability to go back and bring the beautiful tree back that we may have once lost.
Psalm 1:2 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.