Timmy was a bright little boy, with a whole world of dreams waiting just ahead of him – adventures around every turn, wonderful places to explore, and explore them he would – as soon as his chores were done.
He was good with his hands – oh, the things he could create from a few sticks, some leaves, and a dab of mud (sometimes, a bit of chewing gum worked better)… ‘Look!’ he’d say, with all the enthusiasm of an unhindered child – ‘Look at what I’ve built!’ “That’s nice dear, now go wash up for dinner” were the words he heard in response. Over and again he’d pour his heart into some work, whether it was his chores, or being helpful, or creating a masterpiece… ‘Look’, he’d say… “That’s nice dear, no go wash up, it’s time for bed”… “whaddya want”, his brother would taunt, “a medal?”… or from his father, “who left this mess in here?!”.
One day, Timmy finally stopped saying ‘Look’, at least out loud. He’d gotten up extra early, made sure the animals were fed, the cows milked, even gathered the eggs (which was his sister’s job). He brushed his teeth & combed his hair before breakfast, even washed behind his ears… and as he started into the kitchen where the biscuits were about to come out of the oven, his mother said “go wash up for breakfast”. ‘I did wash’, he wanted to say, but Timmy knew better than to even sound like he was talking back… so back down the hall he went, to go through the motions of washing again. No one mentioned the basket of fresh eggs, the pail of milk, or that the animals weren’t making their usual “feed me” noises out in the stalls – no one noticed at all.
That day, after breakfast, Timmy made up his mind – ‘Fine’ he said to himself, ‘I don’t need you – I don’t need any of you!’ He squared up his little shoulders, marched himself out the door, and as soon as he was far enough to be certain that no one could hear him, he sat down on a stump, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed like his heart would break. And break it did, for this was the blow that split wide all the little cracks that formed every time he’d said ‘Look’.
Timmy grew up, as most boys do, went to school & made some friends – but he never let anyone get close enough to hurt him again. Oh, he reached out alright, he had his pals he played ball with, and even picked wild flowers for a few of the girls, but he kept everyone at arm’s length. There were some teachers who took an interest in his creations, one spent time after school teaching Tim how to carve, even gave him his first pocketknife. Tim enjoyed the attention and admiration he got, but it didn’t satisfy the need he had for his family to be proud of him. As the years rolled on, Tim continued on a fierce cycle of doing, building, creating – all the time basking in the ooh’s and aahh’s of the people around him – all the time wishing…but…in his mind, he always heard, “that’s nice dear, now go wash up” – he did all he could do, but it was never enough.
As it happens with young men, Tim found a wife and they had some children. Annie was completely in love with her husband – there was no one more handsome, more skilled, or more desirable in any way than the man God had given her. The children looked up to their dad in awe – there was nothing he couldn’t do, and no other dad in the world could hold a candle to him. Tim & Annie worked together to build a home, and for a while, it seemed life couldn’t be more perfect.
But it didn’t take long before the old ghosts came back to haunt. Each time Tim finished another project, Annie’s admiration and thanks would be drowned in the echoes of “That’s nice dear”…. Tim’s fear and the angry promise of a wounded child had forced him to keep even his beloved Annie at arm’s length – surely she couldn’t actually find his work satisfactory, she couldn’t actually love him for the man he was, for he never revealed to anyone who he really was. He needed the admiration of others – only by their chorus of ooh’s and aah’s could the ghost echoes be overcome. And so the cycle began again – work for praise, work for praise… as though no one could love Tim for himself, for that’s what he’d become convinced of.
The chorus rose… among the fervent work and the lines of people who wanted a piece of Tim’s craftsmanship for themselves, Annie’s voice became lost. The more she struggled to be heard above the roar of the crowd, the more it seemed to Tim that she was shouting “Do more, dear, Do More”. Tim grew weary with all the tumult around him and within his head – ‘they all want more, they’re never satisfied, I can’t do enough…’ he said. So, exhausted, discouraged, he retreated far within the wall he’d built around his heart so many years before, and once again, little Timmy sat alone, and cried.
How can one reach out to this boy? What words, what actions, will reach through the wall and convince him he is loved? What will it take before he trusts enough to share his heart, and know that it will be accepted and cherished? How can one reach him?
If I could, I would take him in my arms and hold him until our tears washed all the harsh memories away – but his arms are longer than mine, so he keeps me at a distance – what can I do? What can I do?