Thursday, May 17, 2018

Everybody Wants to Feel Special Sometimes

We moved a while back, which meant we left behind a number of people we had gotten to know and appreciate, and one of those was our pediatrician. Dr. Landon had seen us through a lot with both of our munchkins. He was very kind and very thorough, and he always acted happy to see us. He told jokes, which was not necessarily my favorite part of visits with him, but it was unique, at least. A visit with Dr. Landon left me feeling like he knew my kids and me and cared about us. Upon mentioning this to a friend who was also a doctor, she noted that he probably said these same things to all of his patients, that he likely treated everyone the same. This revelation left me in a quandary. It feels good to feel special. Thinking that Dr. Landon had a special interest in our family, or some kind of special connection with us, felt good.

I've been reflecting on that desire we have to feel special to people recently. I remember a long plane ride next to some guy from England, whom I thought might ignore me the whole time. When he finally did talk to me, we learned a little bit about each other. We exchanged email addresses. I wrote him a few times after that. For whatever reason, I couldn't abide the thought that he didn't have any interest in knowing who I was. Maybe it was my own issues that caused me to want that human connection, but I think there's a place in all of us that wants people to think we're unique, special, someone they need in their life--someone they should inherently be interested in.

I've thought also about a time when I did something hurtful to a friend of mine. Eventually, in remorse, I apologized. I confessed feeling like a terrible friend and not a very good person. His response was something along the lines of, "We're all terrible people. That's why we need God's grace." Those were not exactly the words I was expecting, though, considering that he was in seminary at the time and eventually became a Lutheran pastor, they seem pretty on point for him.

So many things we do make us feel not very special. It's a lot easier to feel like a real screw-up than to feel special. Maybe that's why we like it when we do feel special, and why, all to often, we make it to mean more than it does. After all, don't we practically pay people to make us feel special? Don't we like it when a server at a restaurant makes us feel like we're the best customer they've had all day? Don't we expect people in "helping" professions--doctors, teachers, pastors, social workers, etc.--to act kindly and make us feel good or better about ourselves, in some way? Yes, we have so many ways that we can feel unique, so many connections we make with others that feel special, whether they really are, or not.

What is it about us that makes us want to be told we are good people? We want to feel special...but the truth is, we're kind of a lot like everyone else. I think that's the conundrum of faith, in some ways. Knowing God has the effect of making us feel both special and minuscule at the same time. If God made all the things, then what would make me think I am a special thing among all of those? The universe sure is big. I sure am small, compared to it. But then, that's why scripture is more than just one story about God, more than the creation of all things. Scripture tells us that God is far away...but also near. We are each part of a creation whose breadth and depth we can't ever understand. AND we are beloved by the God who created all of that. We are each so special...just like everyone else.

Huh? Yeah, that's the thing about God, right? How can God love all the things so much? How can God make each and every one of us feel so special? Maybe that's one of those questions to save up for heaven. Until then, maybe it's better to think a lot about how much God loves us each, how special we all are to God, and then try really hard to remember that all of that applies to everyone else, too. That sounds like enough work to keep me busy for a while...

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