Should we give a child a self-image?

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I realize I am hardly blogging by the outline or by the 31 day schedule. Confession: sometimes writing can overtake real life, and I just needed to attempt to put back in order some of my life chaos. It is tempting to just quit and stop writing the series altogether because of that, but I’m still showing up. I hope these words find each of you well and that you are pondering the things of God. I hope that you will be encouraged by His good news in some way or fashion. May all who are reading these words be blessed.

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One of the most profound questions Madeleine L’Engle asks in her book, A Circle of Quiet, is “should we give a child a self-image?” She writes that one of her pupils, Yetta, in one of her short term classes, states that a child should be given a self-image, and then Madeleine herself ponders the answer and truth of this throughout the book. Her immediate reply to Yetta is,

“Hold everything, Yetta. All my little red warning flags are out. I sniff danger here. Do we want to give the child an image of himself–mirror vision? Or do we want what is real?”

This question of giving a child a self-image is contrary to what is taught in schools today. Without a doubt, educators are trying to give children self-images, and most of the time, we mindlessly agree. At some point in the book, she asks, “How do we give the child a self?”

As an adult looking back at my childhood self, I see things differently than how I perceived them at the time. I wish for things to be different. I wish that my “self” had been seen and nurtured. Since I’ve always struggled with identity, I wish someone had guided me in my strengths and weaknesses and helped me explore who I was, who I am. Yet how can the glance back be what is totally real? My perception versus others thoughts and perceptions are often not the same. It is easy to look back and place blame on a parent, and now as a parent myself, I am sensitive to the fact that much of what I am doing could at some point be seen as damaging to my child later. As a parent, I shape my child, but ultimately, in Christ, He uses every thing happening in our lives to shape us, to mold us into His image of who He wants us to be. We are His creation, and while we are the created, we are still being created.

Ultimately, Christ gives the child a self, but how can any adult be a facilitator of this giving the child a self without knowing the child? And who can ever fully know anyone else?

My daughter is half of me and half alien. :) I joke. We are very similar. There are parts of her that I so identify with, and yet, there are aspects of her that I have to dig for, like mining treasures, I seek to know her. She, being like me, is hard to know, but I must keep trying to get her “self” to rise to the surface and come out so that I can know her, understand her, love her. My love is always an incomplete love, because I am unable to fully know her. Jesus’s love for her is complete, because He knows her fully. He sees the depths and heights of her heart.

“Am I going to do a good deed? Then, of all times, – Father, into thy hands: lest the enemy should have me now.” George MacDonald

Madeleine L’Engle on the above quote: “George MacDonald implies that as long as we put ourselves in God’s hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because He helps.”

We must shape our children asking God to use us as His tools.

“Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself. Is that what Yetta was getting at? Yetta being Yetta, I think it was. But it’s one thing to talk consciously about giving oneself away and another to do it, for it must be done completely unself-consciously; it is not a do-it-yourself activity. No computer can teach it; no computer can show a child compassion, or how to allow people to be different, to experiment, to love. Almost all the joyful things of life are outside the measure of IQ tests, are beyond the realm of provable fact. A person is needed. But if any teacher, no matter how qualified, no matter how loving goes into a classroom thinking, “I am going to give a child a self,” it can’t possibly happen. -Madeleine L’Engle, “A Circle of Quiet”

Image Anomalies

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I was in the fifth grade when I started taking piano lessons. Fifth grade was the year I started middle school, and probably the year that I started looking in all the mirrors, so piano became this amazing thing for me, as it was the only way in which I remember being encouraged creatively. Ms. Stewart was my teacher, and I remember on our first meeting, I did not think she was attractive. She was a voluptuous woman with medium build. She wore red lipstick which occasionally smeared onto her teeth, and she had longer dark brown hair that she curled. She looked like a personality if you know what I mean, but she was a nice Christian lady who dressed modestly. There was just something about her that was different from the women I was used to.

As I took piano lessons, my heart and her appearance started to change. No, her appearance did not really change. Everything about her looked the same, but I saw her as beautiful. It was because I loved her. It was the first time I realized that a heart is the not the same as the outside.

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When we went to Disney World, the younger two kids and I were sitting on a bench eating a snack, and a special needs man on a wheelchair came driving up to us and gave us Mickey Mouse stickers. He was the happiest, most beautiful person I have seen in a while. He conversed with us, and then drove away. I was hoping the kids would see him too, you know with heart eyes, not their eye-eyes. I chatted with them for a bit, but neither had found him strange or unusual – that they voiced to me anyway.

I don’t have special needs kids, but I have friends who do. Listening to their stories and watching their children has taught me about image anomalies. Those are the people who the world would not necessarily call beautiful, but that seem to understand the world the most in so many ways – like how to treat people and how to look in the mirror without shame. Now, certainly these people do not have it easier. The world is always shunning and shaming them and trying to get them to confirm to the world’s mirror.

Because I am a Matrix fan, I see these image anomalies as a “glitch in the Matrix.” The Matrix (a movie from 1999) quote says this, “ A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.” I see these “glitches” not as a glitch but as something special God has given us to see what life could be like if we saw with our heart eyes too.

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The most beautiful man to walk the face of the earth was Jesus, yet Isaiah says this of him, “Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.” The image of God had no physical beauty of which to attract our attention. Yet He is all that is beautiful.

I guess Jesus, Himself, was an image anomaly. Surely these image anomalies exist purposefully to teach us true beauty.

Take no notice of his looks or his height. He is not the one, for the Eternal One does not pay attention to what humans value. Humans only care about the external appearance, but the Eternal considers the inner character.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (the Voice)

This post is one in a 31 day series of posts called Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can see all the posts by clicking here.

If you would like to receive all posts from this series to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Looking in the True Mirror

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I missed Monday because I was visiting my sister for my niece’s birthday. I was snuggling my 3 month old nephew and had a thought to share with you. I missed yesterday because I was exhausted, and I almost missed today because…first world problems. Good thing I had already started this one.  ///// As I […]

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on imagery and Pharisees

Today I meant to delve further into the types of images we create, but I was thinking about creativity.  I will try to explain my examples from yesterday at some point later in the series. I wish I had built into my series some creative writing exercises as even though I love the subject, I […]

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What are some examples of dead images in us?

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in which i must tell you how “image” feels

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What is a graven image?

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