While riding to daycare one morning with my 3-year-old daughter, we stopped at a red light. Over to our right was a neighborhood park with a lake and some water works for landscaping. My daughter asked, “Mommy, can we go to that park one day?”
I said, “Sure. It would be nice to walk the walkway and look at the waterfall, huh?” She said, “what waterfall? I don’t see a waterfall.” Perhaps a tree or something was keeping her from seeing what I saw. Realizing there was space between my car and the car in front of me, I drove up a little so she could see what I was able to see. “Look Livi, there it is,” I said.
She stretched up as far as her car seat would allow, waddled her head from left to right, back and forth, and finally, she said, “Mommy, I don’t see a waterfall.”
“Really Olivia?! You don’t see that waterfall?? It’s right there!!” I explained.
She said, “I see a fountain squirting out water, but no waterfall.”
“Well . . . well . . . well, Miss Smarty pants!” I said to myself.
I stood officially corrected! Mind you, that little girl knew what I meant! I just couldn’t think of the word “fountain” in that moment, so I said the next best word in my head: waterfall. Geez!
Rather than allow me to “slide” on this one, she was, in essence saying, “now Mommy, I love you, but we are not going to walk around calling fountains waterfalls. Those two terms are not interchangeable, synonymous, or tantamount. They are different. Let’s acknowledge the difference and speak accordingly.”
As much as I wanted to get defensive, a part of me was proud that she knew the difference! Even more than that, I was proud that she, like a lot of people her age, was not intimidated.
I am older. I am an authority figure. I am objectively more intelligent than her on many levels. She, however, did not muzzle her thoughts or downplay her own intelligence just to take care of my feelings. She was not concerned about my credentials. All she knew was I was wrong and I was going to be wrong all by myself that day.
I absolutely love that! Young children tend to be some of the most literal, honest, and authentic people around. Olivia and her colleagues must have overheard Paul talking to Timothy saying, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
She did indeed set an example for me that day. There have been instances when I, in a similar situation, had an answer in mind, a solution on the tip of my tongue, an idea I was thrilled about, a plan I couldn’t wait to put into action! Then came that dominating, always right, never wrong personality and I caved. I second guessed, changed my mind, followed rather than led. I basically said, “well . . . perhaps it is called a waterfall . . .” While knowing full well, it’s a fountain.
Are you ever too shy to speak up? Do you undervalue your potential to contribute to the world around you? Are the credentials and perceived expertise of others intimidating? If so, be encouraged! Paul’s letter to Timothy is extended to us as well. This passage encourages us to not allow our comparative “youth” to be a stumbling block in our lives. By “youth,” I’m referring to a relative newness to a position or stage in life. Be it new to Christianity, new to a job position, new in the classroom, new to parenting, new to married life, or any other milestone you have only recently approached. Strive to never muzzle your thoughts or downplay your own intelligence just to take care of another’s feelings for superiority. We are to always exert the power and authority God has placed in us right where we are.
You might not be the most intelligent, but you are intelligent. You may not know it all, but you do know something. You may be the “new kid on the block,” but you are on the block. Shine! Speak up! Say it!
The next time intimidation tries to mute the intellect welling up inside of you, remember this: Olivia was young, had an underdeveloped frontal cortex, slept in a pull-up the night before, had 31 fewer years of experience in this thing called life than I did, and she was right. Ever better, she stood confidently and firm in what she knew to be true. No one was going to convince her there was a waterfall in that park! It was a fountain and that’s that!
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