I can always tell when Daniel gets off the bus if something is on his heart. Much like his parents, he doesn't hide his feelings super well so what you see is what you get with Sunny D. When he's not sunny you know something is up right away. Instead of his usual joyful lumbering gallop down the bus steps, he'll poke along as the last one off then sort of plow himself into my side headfirst as a half-hearted attempt at a hug. Tuesday was one of those days, and the words pretty much poured out of the floodgates after my first teeny-tiny question, "Is something wrong, buddy?"
"Oh, Mommy," he wailed. "I'm never going to get picked for Athlete of the Day! Everybody has gotten picked. EVERYBODY. And they get their name on the board and everything! And Phil got picked today! He did so good. And I try really hard but I'm not fast and I like never get as many points as everybody and everybody got the ball more than me and I just know I am never, ever going to get picked!"
Tears were pooling in his eyes as I sent Josh and Phil running ahead of us to the house. I hugged him close on the sidewalk as he continued to pour out his heart, thinking about how he had been holding this inside all day and also my own athletic ability (or lack thereof) which Daniel has definitely inherited. (Sorry, buddy!!) He makes up for it with heart, as he absolutely loves P.E. class and idolizes his teacher, and plays soccer at recess with such passion that he ends up in the nurse's office more days than not with skinned knees. But I knew that even more than the athletic side of it, Daniel really, really wants to be chosen. Plain and simple.
Poor D, as the middle child it is probably hard to feel like the chosen one. Also funny because of all of my children, Daniel was the only complete and total surprise! When I found out I was pregnant I might have dropped the test on the floor in shock. Paul's first words might have been, "Um, are you sure?" But I have always felt so deeply that Daniel was truly chosen just for our family. I felt it from the first time I held him in my arms, and I feel it over and over again every time I go in to look at him at night after he has fallen asleep, his light blonde hair curling a bit around his sweet face, a little cherub statue in Lego Star Wars jammies. There is just something so special about him, an angelic quality caked in little boy energy and clumsiness and messiness, a humor beyond his years, and a tenderness in his spirit for the "least of these" among us. If I can manage to teach him to use a Kleenex and put his clothes in the hamper and brush his teeth without just chewing on the toothbrush and staring into space, I swear this kid is going to grow up and change the world with his smile. I always tell Daniel he was my happiest surprise, the best surprise I have ever gotten in my life. Chosen just for me. No one could be better.
I took the opportunity to tell him that, too. I know how it can hurt to be the last one picked for a game, or when you aren't invited to that party that everyone is talking about, or your friend chooses to sit with someone else on the bus and you are left alone. Even as grown ups we can have those feelings! When someone doesn't friend us on social media, or there isn't room for us in the circle, or someone else gets the place of honor,wins the prize, earns the award, gets the promotion, we start to feel a little less than inside of ourselves. Why wouldn't they pick me? Aren't I good enough? It can feel like everyone has a special place besides us. The hurt feelings take over and make us start to doubt our inherent worthiness.
But then there is the truth underneath, which conveniently, I had just been reading about that afternoon. (Good timing, God.) I was so grateful to have Henri Nouwen's words on belovedness right in the front of my mind to help my little guy at that moment.
"Daniel," I said. "You know who chose you before the world even began?" Daniel looked up at me with a glimmer of recognition like, "Ohhhhh, here she goes again." But he didn't seem too annoyed so I got right down next to him and kept on going.
"Daniel, God made you just the way you are and you are JUST RIGHT. He will always choose you again and again. Even if your friends or teachers don't choose you, God chooses you. And I choose you, too."
I gave him a hug. We went inside I made him a bowl of ice cream and by the end of snack the sugar-induced wind was right back in those little sails. He pounced down the basement stairs to play Legos with Phil, Athlete of the Day sadness left at the door right next to the stinky PE shoes.
This morning I was unloading the Take Home folders (conveniently just in time to sign them) and found this.
Phil wanted Daniel to feel chosen, too.
(Insert Mommy heart explosion.)
Since I am not God and cannot bust through the ceiling of the school with a giant beam of light and be all like, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON!! LISTEN TO HIM!!" I need to just give my boys that chosen feeling in their heart as best as I can in my own feeble human imperfect way. So when the world may not choose them, they'll know that no matter what, he's always "in" - with God AND with me. You are, too. I hope you know how chosen you are today. No matter what the world tells you- that you have to do better, feel better, perform better, earn your place. . .you are just right exactly as you are.
"When we can hear that voice, trust in it, and always remember it, especially during dark times, we can live our lives as God's blessed children and find the strength to share that blessing with others. In the Kingdom of God there is no competition or rivalry. The Son of God shares his chosenness with us. In the Kingdom of God each person is precious and unique, and each person has been given eyes to see the chosenness of others and rejoice in it. " -Henri Nouwen