Uncharacteristic silence wafted from the car seat directly behind me as we drove. Constant words from my happy chatterbox slowed.
Then she told me a story. Weeks before, she had been playing in the back yard with a little friend. Excitement led to boredom, then teasing. Where before they had been running around and between the posts of the porch, now her little friend started pretending that Abby herself was a post. “You’re a post! You’re a post!”
Apparently Abby was deeply offended by this accusation, both when she was telling me and in the moment. “She wouldn’t stop calling me a post! I yelled at her and yelled at her, but she just kept doing it.”
If she hadn’t been so upset, it would have been funny. The intensity of the feelings and the mental image of 4-year-olds calling each other the most hurtful things they could think of—wooden posts—is just a little precious. But something about this interaction struck at the core of this 4-year-old’s psyche.
So while we drove, we tried out a little bit of logic.
“Abby, I hear you saying that you being called a post hurt your feelings. Let’s stop and think for a moment about something: Are you a post?”
“What are you?”
“That’s right,” I replied. “A precious, special little girl! Did you become a post when you were called one?”
“Exactly! Your friend can’t call you a post and then make you magically turn into one. She doesn’t have that power. Because someone calling you names cannot change who you are.”
Our conversation continued: “Abby, what happens if you have a sticker that you want to put on your dress, but it doesn’t have any sticky on it?”
“It falls off.”
“That’s right! When someone calls you names, when those things are not true, they are like stickers without any sticky left. They just fall off. The only one who gets to call us names that stick is the One who made us.
“Who made you, dear Abby?”
“God!” (She knows this answer.)
“Then He is the one who gets to name you. And guess what He has named you?”
“I don’t know,” she replied.
With an eye on the rearview mirror and the confidence that I was preaching to myself as well, I continued: “Dear Abby, people can call us names. Everywhere we go, you will find people who want to name you. Someone can call you a name, but it doesn’t make it true. As you get bigger and bigger, you will probably know people who try to give you names. But all those names are like stickers that don’t have any sticky left on it. When you know who you are (a precious girl that God made and loves), the stickers fall right off.
“The One who made you gets to name you. Every other name doesn’t have any sticky, and you can let it fall right off. So the next time someone calls you a name, what might you think and say?”
Silence. Thinking. Then:
“I’ll think, is that true? Then I’ll say, No it’s not! Then we’ll play.”
And with that, we arrived at our destination, and she happily skipped off to Grandma’s house.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.…
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and I love you.”
—Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 4a
Note: The MVP of this conversation is Max Lucado’s endearing children’s book, “You Are Special.” Get it for the little people in your life, and read it yourself.