We’re a family that do party games, taught well by my Grandma & Grandad in their legendary Boxing Day gatherings, with traditions they established being enjoyed and treasured, and now passed on to our little ones. That ‘my Bonnie lies over the ocean’ and ‘jingle bells’ need to be sung when playing ring-on-the-string (as well as of course the rounds where the ring ends up on a finger, or off the string completely) is a given; the little ones quickly learn the rise and fall of ‘how green you are’ and sit on knees almost bursting to point out the hidden object; we love the excitement (& probably if we are honest still feel a little intimidated by) ‘country,county,town’ (Grandad excelled!); have hilarious moments in miming games like ‘charades’ (this year I attempted ‘elvis’ for my team – aghhh!!); and of course we love ’20 questions’ (Grandad especially loved Bible rounds – and I’m pretty sure he must have researched the most obscure characters for months in advance).
Year on year we add new traditions of course, ‘Empires’ is a must for my children now – one I don’t remember playing when I was young – if you are unfamiliar, its a game where everyone chooses a new identity (usually someone famous, or a fictional character etc) and then as the game begins if someone guesses your identity correctly you have to join their empire, and this carries on until of course one person has collected everyone else into their empire. This year A managed to trick us all, picking an identity mostly known by the adults and then proceeding to inquire, brilliantly poker faced who that person was when all the identities in the room were read out!! He was chuffed.
Who am I? It’s not always a fun-filled quest outside the context of party games though is it. The source of much anxiety and heart ache, the stress of feeling misunderstood or misrepresented, the arguments between siblings that really boil down to worries about that question that’s niggling away in the background as they grow up. It’s there at the heart of struggles for independence and control, and is there in the midst of the ongoing struggles over behaviour that challenges boundaries. It’s implicit in lots of the difficulties of friendships, in the lack of confidence about gifts and talents, in the lifelong task of learning to love and trust. Who am I? The asking of it and the answers we find impact hugely on our life choices, our behaviours and our relationships. I can’t help but recognize that as parents our influence over the atmosphere we encourage in our home, the way we talk with our children, the things we value and praise about them and in them, our choice of language when we discipline, the principles or values we bring into play when working out choices and decisions with them, the way we talk about ourselves & treat ourselves – all of it shapes and forms the answers they will initially find to this question…gulp, and HELP!!
Yes I know I’m not going to get everything perfectly right, but what do I want to say to them in answer to their question as they grow up?
who are you? you are more than your achievements
It’s true we are thrilled when you achieve great things in your activities and hobbies, when you have mastered a new skill and when you get certificates and badges or awards. We love it when we see your satisfaction achieving something new working with others, helping out your brother or sister, volunteering in the community. It’s true, we are thrilled when you achieve great things – those times when you shine in your work at school, when we see your work being praised by others, when it looks like your way of thinking and the hard work you put into studying will take you places and is full of promise for a secure future … of course we are thrilled, but you are even more than these things. Don’t let these things be the only thing you turn to to find out who you are. You achieve them because of who you are, not the other way around!
who are you? you are more than your failures
We all fail at things sometimes, things we try to learn and can’t quite get right; things that we wish we could have done better. There are conversations that don’t go well, and times when we let people down or even hurt them. We forget things, lose things, double book things, back out of things we know deep down that we should do, we make wrong choices sometimes, we struggle with behaviours that are hard to change and it feels awful I know – and when we see you feeling it keenly we feel it too, because we love you. Failures influence us, shape us as we get back up and try again, and sometimes they become something that makes us see the world differently. But please don’t let failures and mistakes be the only thing you turn to to find out who you are, they are things that can help us grow – they don’t determine you.
who are you? you are more than sexuality
The world around you will tell you that this defines you, but I don’t think it does, I think that there’s a different way of thinking about it. Magazines and articles will imply that this part of you is the part to build everything else on or around – that this part of you should be the first consideration in how you shape your lifestyle, and the principle out of which your decisions flow.
We all have desires, hopes and dreams. We are made with an inbuilt need for meaningful relationship and a desire for intimacy, but intimacy is more than sexuality, and relationships are not built only on sex. You are not solely sexual, who you are is more than that. You are not defined by fulfilled desires or by sex appeal or attraction. Please don’t look only here to work out who you are.
Who are you? You are more than things
We have so many things. Some are useful, some meaningful, some steeped in memories. Some just pretty, some just because. Some we were given and some carefully saved for. There are things that others have that we then feel we need too.
But things are temporary, and often short lived. Some things are great fun for a while, some things can make us feel special or even more at home but even then they will not last forever. Don’t hold your identity and sense of well being tightly with your things – don’t let this be the place to find out who you are. Things can echo our personality, and express something about you but they cannot be the sum total of you.
who are you? you are more than your popularity
We all want friends, we want to be liked. And sometimes we wonder if what other people think of us, or say about us is who we really are. I love seeing you when you enjoy time with good friends, the kind of friends that take time to get to know you, who treat you with respect, who you have fun with, who you love to listen to and share things with. But I want you to know that on those days when friends let you down, or are hard to find you do not stop being wonderfully you.
“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. (Lk 12:7 The MSG)
Friends are great, and their approval means a lot I know, but even your best ever friend will not ‘get you’ perfectly all of the time. Please don’t only turn to friend’s approval to find out who you are.
who are you? Rather – whose are you?
You are so loved, so precious, so unique – there will never be or ever has been another you.
You have something unique to share with the world just by being you – and in God’s way of working that can have an impact, and an influence that goes far beyond anything you can imagine right now.
When I first held you, it wasn’t because you looked up at me, or needed me, or because you were cute, or because you smiled (‘cos you didn’t at first) that I loved you. You were part of me, grown within me, I laboured for you, I couldn’t wait to meet you and get to know you – you belong with me, with us, we had loved you before you even arrived. If my mother love for you, and Daddy’s father love for you feels like that how much more do I want you to realize God’s parent love for you, that has been for you before you even began to grow, that does not depend on your response to Him and is not in response to your decisions or achievements. His love for you runs deeper than you can imagine, it under-girds you, grows and nurtures you. His love is forever. In a much more profound way than you belonging with us you belong with Him. Please let this be the place you return to over and over again to find out who you are.
Who are you? Whose are you? You are His.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! (Ps 139:13-18 The MSG)