I wrote this blog on vacation, sitting in a hammock by the sea. On the trip, I explored the underwater world and also the jungle. Every time I have an opportunity to explore nature, I am awed by God's abounding creativity. God made complex creatures like humans, sharks, and monkeys. But He also filled the ocean with so many fish! There are huge ones and tiny ones, flat ones and skinny ones, puffer fish that are boxy and trumpet fish that are long. Some of these fish are parasite magnets, requiring others to swim inside their gills to eat the parasites. There are fish that change gender and fish that change color. And that is just a snapshot understanding of the exciting world of fish!
Add to that coral and sponges and anemones. Creatures so delicate they look like flowers as they decorate the tips of specific coral (photo associated with the blog today.) Blink and you miss them but once you see them, you want to stop blinking. There are creatures you only see at night and ones that hide at night, wrapping themselves in a layer of mucous to protect from predators.
In the jungle, there are trees that "bleed" rubber and others that "bleed" glue. Some produce fruits for humans, others make fruit only birds can eat. There is so much diversity, so much beauty in seeing how it all works together. Kind of like a creator designed it all.
If God created such diversity in fish or trees or invertebrates, how much more so in the prize creation, the ones made in His image? There are babies who smile early, are very social, speaking full sentences and telling funny stories at age 2. Some kids explore my office, sticking their fingers into every hole, attempting to manipulate every drawer, button, plug, etc. There are children who would sit and chat with me all day, jumping from one exciting, unrelated topic to another. Others are so scared of shots or strangers that they won't speak. Some teenagers are angry, arguing with every statement their parent's make. Some parents respond by arguing back while others are incredible at diffusing the situation. Some teenagers give me an overwhelming feeling of hope of the future- in their confidence, intelligence, kindness, and vision.
I can't help but believe if God can create such an intricate underwater world as I glimpsed on my trip, He has done the same on land. It is easy to feel powerless against the ravaging force of bad news. Covid, wildfires, war, racism, sexism, poverty, educational decline, etc. etc. are disheartening and overwhelming. But on vacation, I could step back and glimpse God's work in action, remember His bigness and majesty.
Now that I am home, I need to remember that a God who planned the oceans, also has plans for my kids. And yours. Timid and loud kids, spontaneous and cautious, artistic and athletic, thoughtful and straightforward, all of these positive traits, and more, God can and does use for good. We need outspoken leaders AND behind the scenes workers, kids who test and expand limits as well as those who stay within the lines all of the time. We work together in an enormous orchestra so grand we can't comprehend it.
In Indonesia, where the lion fish is native, it was a rare but spectacular fish to see. They have predators and the water temperature is cold enough that they spawn a few times a year. In the Caribbean, where they are invasive, this is different. They have few to no natural predators and the water is warm enough that they spawn every 4 days. This is causing huge destruction to the native fish species.
I think people are like this too. We have gotten in such a habit with social media and instant news, of sharing every amazing moment and some of the horrible moments, but very little in between. This creates a culture of comparison and comparison breeds competition. If your child sits quietly on the carpet while mine is in the back jumping all over the place, it is easy to wish my child were more like yours. But if those same two kids were on the playground, your child might still be sitting quietly while mine is running all over the place, inviting the new kids to play and making them feel welcome. Now you wish your child were more social. I am absolutely an advocate of stretching ourselves and our children, encouraging them to step into the slightly uncomfortable. In this example, my child does still need to attend school and learn strategies not to interfere with the learning of other classmates. Just as your child should work to interact with others to make and include friends. But nobody is good at everything and I think we are so busy focusing on what we are not good at or wishing for something different, that we sometimes forget to be thankful and hone the amazing skills right in front of us. Both of these kids can be influencers. Both can make a positive change in the world around them. They exert themselves in different ways, just as God designed them to do.
As parents, let's admire the diversity in our kids and the world around us. Let's trust in a creative God who has plans for each of them that might be small in size, but mighty when viewed as piece of the larger whole. Let's not compare our children against others, just as you wouldn't expect a starfish to look or behave like an eel. Let's let starfish be starfish, eels be eels, and humans be the people God designed each one to be.
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