I heard a story today at a Language & Culture Conference given by my school district that impacted me. There was a woman at a grocery store next to the produce department. As she stood there she saw a mom walk up to the vegetable section with a child sitting in the grocery cart. As the mom and child approached the eggplants the child asked her mom, "Mom, what is that?" Mom responded, "Nothing, and don't touch anything!" Another mom and child came soon thereafter. When her child asked, "Mom, what is that?" The second mom responded, "It's an eggplant." Then a third mom and child appeared. When her child asked, "What is that?" The mom got so excited! She began to explain that an eggplant is a vegetable, purple on the outside, white on the inside. It can be cooked several ways, fried, breaded, baked, or boiled. And, perhaps they could even prepare it for daddy to eat for dinner that very night. Wow, three exchanges, yet all so different.
Not only did the third child receive a wealth of language exposure, he or she received affirmation. Caring about what a person is asking, saying, thinking, struggling with, is a way we can affirm not only our children, but anyone that God puts in our path. The first two moms may have had a hundred things on their minds, worries, deadlines and to-do lists. It's hard to stop, listen, engage and affirm when you have responsibilities and pressing things to take care of. I've been there and I totally understand. However, if we only knew how vital attention giving is to the healthy emotional development of a person, I think we'd make it a priority, rather than thinking it's an interruption.
It can make all the difference in the world.
While affirming someone makes a positive difference, likewise not affirming someone creates a negative experience. I'm sure we all can remember a negative encounter with someone who did not attend to us when we mostly needed it. Multiple rejections can cause us to feel unimportant, unnecessary and intruding. I don't think any of us want to feel this way or be responsible for causing someone else to feel the same.
Interestingly, I learned at the same conference that successful students come from homes where they have received more affirmations and less prohibitions. I think this may be because affirmations help us feel as if we can accomplish all and more than we thought we could. Affirmations give us confidence to try again even when we've failed. Affirmations help us to understand that we are much more than just the sum of all of our mistakes and failed attempts. Believing that we can accomplish that which God has called us to do is what helps us to go forth in faith. Sometimes we call it "fear", perhaps it's more than just fear that may keep us from living out our God-given dreams, maybe it's a personal belief that we just can't do much more than what we're already doing. And, although we are told that we can all things through God's strength and power, the "I can't" mentality is pretty powerful to keep us at bay.
I believe the Lord wants to affirm you and me today. He wants us to know that indeed we can do all that He has called us to do. He wants us to look forward in hope and leave behind all of our failures, failed attempts, mistakes, limitations and exceptions. When past thoughts come to intrude on our present hope, we need to take those thoughts captive to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and replace those thoughts with His affirming Word. He is the One that goes before us preparing the way so that we can walk in it. Our past doesn't disqualify us, neither does our status or our own self-image, we qualify because He says we do! As we walk in His way, following His lead, we will find that our internal belief systems will begin to transform from an "I can't" mentality to an "I can through Christ, because of Christ and for Christ".
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
1 Peter 2:9