I remember the first day I started to attend the community group I’ve been going to for the last two years. The scene I walked into was very similar to what I had imagined it would be. There was only one difference and that was a 15 month old little girl who immediately caught my eye. Now, I have to admit that I love little people. But, because I’m not that crazy sort of gal who loves little people, I remember consciously keeping a distance. From talking to M., the girl’s mother, I learned that her name was Bennet.
It didn’t take very long for Bennet and I to become fast friends. Having lived in Seattle for nearly three years, she is still one of my favorite people. She’s creative, silly, tries really hard to be good, and has a ton of energy. I liked showing up early to M’s house to read books with Bennet and have colors, animal sounds, and shapes become the most important concerns of the evening.
In addition to her stellar personality (attributable to both of her parents), I loved Bennet because I loved her name. As we became better friends, Bennet became Benny Bear and/or Bennalicious. If memory serves me well, Bennet’s dad, J, upon hearing me call her Bennalicious commented, “Isn’t that a brand of gum?” I continued to call her any of the terms of endearment itemized above up until J and M had a second daughter (also a B) and Bennet became a big sister. By this time, Bennet was almost two and although she wasn’t uttering complete sentences, she knew names and was saying small phrases. As part of becoming a big sister, Benny Bear came up with a nickname for her sweet little sister and it caught on with the rest of the community group. Bookie-Boo was a household name at J and M’s house and I was eager to babysit the girls so they could go on date night.
I have to admit, I don’t know how mothers do it. Upon my second or third time taking care of B-squared (Benny Bear and Bookie-Boo), I was still exhausted despite the fact that M had made dinner and all I had to do was put the girls to bed. Bookie Boo was swaddled and drifting off to baby dream land and Benny Bear needed to clean her baby bear teeth. The pace of the evening had been pretty swift but I felt confident that I would be able to negotiate the teeth brushing. I settled my throat in order to speak with my most energetic and convincing tone and said, “Let’s go brush our teeth, Benny Bear!” I remember her scampering up to me and suddenly stopping. She furrowed her little eye brows, stuck her hands on her hips and said, “I’m BENNET.”
Nearly a year later, I still remember my response. Without any control, my throat clenched and my heart hurt. “No,” I thought, “You’re my Benny Bear.” I quickly recovered and asked her, “You don’t like being called Benny Bear?”
“No,” she said, “I’m Bennet.”
It was almost immediate (thankfully) that I got a glimpse of what God must feel like when He’s working on me. Both the old and new testaments proclaim that every person is created in the image of God and is preplanned. Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life, does an excellent job in explaining that no one is an accident. Instead, we’re all important pieces of God’s master plan. Every piece is equally valuable, crafted and created by God in order to ensure that He is glorified. As Jeremiah prophesied to the Israelites when they were exiled to Babylon,
“…For I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a hope and future.”
God has given a hope and a future to every human since Adam and Eve. He has authored every person’s story and has written His history as an attempt to see all of us return to Him. Bennet’s rejection of ‘Benny Bear’ was a special moment where I realized that if I as an imperfect person could love a little person so much and be crushed when she rejected my expression of endearment, how much more does my rejection of God’s endearment seem utterly foolish?
I know that there are often times where I have rejected God’s plan for me. When I was in college, I pursued a job that would have required me to move out of my sorority house so that I could manage the president of the university’s residence during special events at his house. Although I would have had to give up an officer position and probably wouldn’t be able to attend our house Bible study as often, I was much more concerned about getting this job which would provide invaluable experience for my post-college resume. As Jesus was calling me not to abandon the opportunity to be intentional with my sorority sisters, I planted my heels, stuck my hands on my hips, and told Jesus, “No… I’m supposed to be the event coordinator.” I didn’t get the job.
My little exchange with Benny Bear ( J ) showed me that it’s not only in the big moments where I tell Christ who I am. When I’ve let past sin hang over my head and wear me down, I’ve in essence told Him that I’m not forgiven. When I’ve sinned during moments of impatience, I’ve told Him that I’m just built that way and can’t be fixed. There have been times where I’ve told him I’m entitled to good things. I’m also really good at telling Him that I’m a much better manager of my treasure than He is.
I’m grateful for the interchange with Benny Bear because I believe the Holy Spirit really used it to show me that I’m still a child of God and that I am so blessed to have Him call me anything. It reminded me of the personal relationship I have with Him and how, in His sovereignty, I will become what He wants me to be… just like Bennet is still my Benny Bear.
29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.