For all the nobodies; for Maria, with love
Tierney was upset. She is the third of our four closely spaced children – one boy followed by three girls – and she is indisputably the middle child. She may also be the most quotable member of the family.
This particular day, Tierney pouted as she delivered that classic childhood mantra, “It’s not fair!”
“What’s not fair, sweetheart?” I inquired.
“It’s not fair,” she insisted again. “I’m not the only boy, and I’m not the biggest kid, and I’m not the oldest girl and I’m not the cute little baby. I’m just Tierney.”
She was 4½ years old.
Tierney’s message was unmistakable: she wasn’t special. She felt that unless she was the first, last or “only” of something, there was nothing about her that mattered.
I launched into a passionate speech about how she was incredibly special, but of course it did not help. The child did not feel special, and that was that.
This was not the first time our middle child had communicated that she felt lost in the crowd. Yes, she was very young, but this kid was an old soul, if you know what I mean. Even at her tender age, if Tierney said she felt unimportant, it was a legitimate issue.
It was clear that Peter and I needed to improve our parenting. And so we tried. We hung Tierney’s artwork on the refrigerator. We read to her at bedtime apart from her siblings and cheered her on when she played soccer in the yard. We took photos of her for no particular reason and spent time with her one-on-one. We had been doing these things all along, but we added lots of assurances that Tierney was special.
Our efforts paid off to a limited degree, but it took 20 years. I have a theory about why it took so long: fundamentally, many of us do not believe that we are worthy of love. We don’t think we’re special.
Children are not the only ones who feel this way. A great many adults live with a sense of unimportance. We may not blurt out our feelings the way a child does. Instead, adults are more likely to languish in pain while silently yearning for affirmation and love.
Throughout Scripture, our heavenly Father assures us that we are precious to him. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you, and you are mine,” God declares. ‘“I will never forget you,’ says the Lord. ‘See? I have written your name upon the palms of my hands.’”
In the New Testament, we are referred to as God’s adopted children. Why are we adopted and not biological?
One reason is that, according to Jewish law, a biological child could be disinherited if the child was rebellious, but an adopted child could never be disinherited.
We are adopted into God’s family and granted all the privileges of heirship. God offers salvation and forgiveness, and showers us with his love. We are not just God’s friends; we are his children. Surely this truth should make us feel special – because we are special.
If one has been deeply wounded, it may take a long time to truly embrace the reality that we are loved by God.
It’s easier to believe that we are nobodies who don’t deserve to be special. But believing we are nobodies is believing a lie. God is madly, passionately in love with us. Each of us is special to God, not because of what we do but simply because of who we are.
Believe it. It’s the truth.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.