Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To all the "Average" Kids Out There: You May Not Know It, But You Could Be the Best Big Toe Ever

Tomorrow night my son, Benedict, will be graduating from middle school.  Insert sobbing here.  

{Sorry, still sobbing.}

I'm not going to go with the typical laments like, "Where did the time go?" or "Why did he have to grow up so fast?," because those questions torture my brain.  They have no answers.  However, if I should find the answers after blowing through a box of tissues and consuming bottle of wine, I'll be sure to come back and edit this post. 

One of the year-end projects Benedict was required to complete before graduating was a scrapbook of his life, primarily of his school days, from preschool through eighth grade. (Do you want to see a few glimpses from the early years?? Of course you do...)
{Left: Drooling on the Sears Portrait Studio bear, circa 2001.
Right: I'm smiling 'cause there's a wedgie under these Wranglers, throwback to 2005.}

Back to the scrapbook... I must confess, my boys are not crafters. Boys in general don't typically spend their free time browsing Hobby Lobby for coordinating paper and stickers because they prefer to spend their precious free time capturing the epic moments of their middle school years (do they??). So, my boy, he be needin' some serious help with this project.  I'm no helicopter mom, but sometimes certain situations in life call for some hovering.

Anyway, like the professional procrastinator that I am, I was "helping" him cut and paste the last few pictures into the book, while he wolfed down breakfast, the morning the scrapbook was due.

 Let me just tell you what scrappin' it up at 6 a.m. does for mother-son bonding: Not a damn thing

I blame the last minute cut and paste panic on the thief who stole my laptop a few weeks ago, the laptop which contained a grande file of photos that I had been collecting for the project since last fall. That whole situation temporarily deflated my carpe scrapbook enthusiasm, but whatever Mr. McThief. Karma (or all the saints I've been prayin' to for your conversion's) gon gitcha.  

Moving on....

During the hourrrrrzzz, that I spent with Benedict sorting through endless pre-pimple photos and trying to come up with clever captions to summarize each magic moment, I realized something unexpected.  Every glossy photo-filled page he created tells the story of the life of a boy who the world will probably always categorize as average, but who is oh, so very far from just that.

While we were working together, once in a while I would catch a disappointed expression on Ben's face.  It was an expression that made me wonder if Ben agrees with the world's estimations of him. 

The lack of photos filled with trophies, ribbons, and perfect scores can understandably make a young man wonder why his mother would ever be content to just capture his infectious smile, his strong arms reaching out to hold a sibling, his honoring heart working beside his father all day long in the heat of the summer until the job was done.  

Those are the best things that a mother sees through her lens.  Things the world won't see, but things she'll spend her life trying to convince her son are the most valuable of all.
More than anything in this world, I think that Ben would truly love to be a stellar athlete. I watch in admiration at all of the effort and hard work he puts into every sport he plays.  I just wish I could have gifted him with even a few supreme athletic genes.  I mean, I pretty much knew in elementary school, while all the other girls were doing back handsprings across the playground, and I was just trying to avoid getting chucked with dodge balls by the boys, that I was never going to be any sort of sporty phenomenon. 

Now my husband, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.  He contributes about 90% of every family gene associated with visually appealing coordination, strength and grace.  He's pretty much the total skillz package. Thank the Lord for him, thank. the. Lord.

But, you are young, I say to Benedict. Don't give up! Some of the best athletes started out being far from the best, or great, or even good.  Talent sometimes takes time to develop.  Keep practicing! Your father and I believe in you!.... 

He nods, always nods affirmative, eyes drifting down toward the ground far away from my words, and I know that he cannot find, in his teenage will, the strength to trust what I have said.

I recognize, in our oldest son, that he doesn't need for us to sign him up for more summer camps or music lessons or private tutoring.  He doesn't really even need more encouragement. He just needs a different kind of it.  The real-life unsugar-coated kind.  And, I'm right at home giving him just that, because I know from experience that there's a lot more substance behind being "average" than what the world can see, than what Benedict can see in himself. 

So, I reach down deep into some personal experience, grab my bible, and proceed with the "Big Toe" talk.  

{That is not a typo.} 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  
If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body." 
And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? 
If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But, as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as He chose
~ 1 Corinthians 12:14-18

As a child I remember wanting to be able to do those back handsprings, too. In middle school and even high school it was volleyball, basketball, academics, music, friendships, you name it, I went for it, but I was never great, just good enough to hang in there with the rest.  I wasn't a heart or brain or spine.  I was a big toe.  

The big toe is a worker, a try-and-try-harder member of the body.  The big toe isn't admirable or attractive, and it stays hidden in a shoe most of it's life.  But, without the big toe, the body struggles to remain balanced, strong, composed.  The big toe holds the body up.  It pushes off the pavement, propels movement, gains ground for the good of the entire body step, by step, by step.

And, if the big to doesn't do what it was created to do, the body is weakened, it's direction is compromised.  Perhaps, at least for now, Ben is being asked to fulfill the role of the big toe.  I want him to know that there is no shame whatsoever in that. In fact it is my life-long prayer for him that he will be able to recognize and embrace with confidence all the ways that God is shaping him as a young man through the gifts He has chosen uniquely for him, and that he will have the courage to live a life of virtue through the offering of those gifts to the world.

For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members, one of another.  
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.  
~ Romans 12:4-6

It took me a very long time to figure out that being the toe wasn't so bad.  It took me even longer to realize that what good the toe brings to the world is not for it's own personal gain or glory but for God and God alone (whether we attribute it to Him or not).

Helping a 14 year old understand this truth - that he is created, gifted, and loved for a purpose beyond the self-seeking admiration that the world can give isn't easy.  I'm not sure it ever gets easy for any of us. 

What reward, what praise, what admiration or accolades does the world give to the mother who paces the floor through the night, comforting a fussy baby, who makes sure there is food on the table, clean clothes on backs, who says yes to others a thousand times a day, and just as many times no to herself? 

For you, Benedict, what reward will the world ever give to you for the decision you make every single day to study with perseverance subjects that the smarter kids already have mastered, to shoot free throws until the sun goes down, or to practice your high jump form over and over again knowing that there will always be others who find the height you're trying to reach supremely easy?  

Nothing. The world will give you nothing.  But, the Lord will give you everything, every grace, every mercy, every blessing, because you give HIM everything when you keep trying, keep giving your best every single day, doing what you're meant to do, being who you are meant to be for the Body of Christ.  And the reward for that, which is heaven, cannot even begin to compare to any prize you could ever claim here on this earth.

I'll always believe that there is greatness in our children. What mother doesn't have such faith?! Benedict may surprise us all one day and become a stellar hoop star.  He may graduate at the top of his class, or even earn a scholarship for college (please, God, let it be that!).

But, if he doesn't experience any of those things, if he was indeed created to be the toe that gives balance, support and a quiet strength to the body, then I can only hope that Ben discovers along the path of life just as much joy and fulfillment in living the great purpose of his calling as he would if the world had ever considered him to be above average.


  1. Ok, now I'm crying. Blasted pregnancy hormones.
    Beautiful words, thank you.

    1. Thank you, Isabelle! I hope your pregnancy is going smoothly...I will say a few extra prayers for you and baby tonight! :)

  2. Beautiful Susan I love this and you are so right it is all for the glory if God and I am sending prayers for Benedict. Those teen years are rough

    1. Thanks, Becca! Prayers are the BEST. He really is such a special kid...sometimes watching your kiddos go through the ups and downs of life can be hard on the heart. It's certainly an opportunity for grace for both kids and parents!

  3. I love this so much! Beautiful you! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Beautifully written! From one big toe to another :).

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This is such a fantastic story of your oldest! Congrats to him. Can't you just see what a great future he has coming?!!!


If you are having trouble leaving a comment, please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a response on my Facebook page. Thanks!