Last week I took a trip to Albania to do some ministry and prepare for a future ministry trip. While there, I went to many of the government-funded orphanages. Our team got in the car one morning and our guide for the trip started giving us a rundown of the day, and he announced that we would be going to the baby orphanage. At this news, all the women in the car started to squeal excitedly, because of the obvious — babies.
When we arrived at the baby orphanage, we spent some time meeting with the leadership, workers, and getting a tour. Then it was the treasured time to go into the playroom with the babies. As we walked in to a room with 10 babies all under the age of 2, it was interesting to see the different temperaments we encountered. Most of these were children who had been abandoned because their parents were not able to provide for them, but the parents were still in their lives periodically.
One little boy ran and hid under the curtains in the corner afraid to meet new people. Another little girl just walked up with her arms flung high and a grin, waiting to be held. Still another tiny 9 month old sat on the couch crying, but refused to be touched, and he would even cry harder if you tried to console him. Another little baby girl at around 7 months could be passed to anyone, and she would hold each new person's gaze with a giggle of awe and wonder.
I stood making faces at the 7 month old, and I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with a friend who has a baby this age. Right around that time babies begin to understand that their caregivers are separate people from them. They begin to pick up on people’s faces, and even how to respond to new people based on how their caregiver responds. Babies at that age will look to their parent or caregiver, then back at a new person, then back to their caregiver to make sure this was an OK new person to encounter. Babies who don’t have a main caregiver are oftentimes too trusting of new people, or they are fearful of new people.
I don’t know that we ever really grow out of this habit. We are constantly looking to our parents or caregivers to see if this is safe, good, and OK. I’m a grown adult, and I still look to my parents for guidance and approval at times. I don’t think this is bad. People I know that haven’t had consistent caregivers or parents are often times too trusting or are very cautious of new people.
At some point for all of us, approval patrol has to shift. It needs to shift from getting approval from a person to gaining the approval of God. Of course, we still would like to have the approval and OK from our caregivers or parents. However, parents are not always going to approve of the decisions of their children. It could be in a college choice, friendship choice, career choice, activity choice, food choice, or even financial choice, but at some point we will not have the approval of our parents. The face that we need to continually check with for approval must be the Lord’s first and foremost.
As we begin to slide right into the Week of Blessings, I am reminded that most of the time what we are really seeking is the blessing. Blessing means that you are highly valued and treasured by someone of great significance to you no matter what you do. You can have the blessing even when you don’t have approval. We have to remember this when those we love choose to do something we don’t agree with; we don’t want to withhold the blessing.
In Deuteronomy 28, it states that all blessings accompany his people. God highly values us as his people, and we have great significance to him, just as he should to us. It says in a summary that you are blessed in the city and country, blessed in your produce and livestock, blessed coming in and going out, enemies to be defeated before your face and flee in seven different directions, blessing in the storehouses and everywhere you set your hand, lend to many nations and not borrow, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t know about you, but I want all of those blessings. Not some of them, but all of them. The only way those come upon you though is through obedience. As much as some parents may want me to say obedience to parents, it is actually talking about obedience to God. Blessing follows obedience. In turn, the only way we can be obedient is if we are looking at God for the “go” and “OK” in everything we do. Otherwise, we are too trusting of voices that don’t highly value us, or we begin to shrink in fear to everything that comes near us!
As we learn this balance, we remind ourselves and those we pour into as teachers, parents, coaches, and ministers to heed the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.”
Just like a baby, we have to start acknowledging him in all our ways — and let him direct our paths.
Caroline Hare is the youth minister at Destin United Methodist Church.