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Simply irreplaceable

A spiritual look at issues of interest to young people

May 1, 2001



An eager writer was sharing a portion of a story she'd written for children at a week-long writing workshop. We listened appreciatively to a sensitive tale about a little girl who, having lost a grandmother she loved, discovered a new and special friend in her teacher.

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But those of us listening pointed out what we felt was a problem. The story made it sound as if the grandmother could be replaced. We liked hearing all the ways the little girl got over her grief and came to love her teacher. But several people commented that while the teacher might hold a new and important place in this child's life, Grandma Rose couldn't be replaced.

Each of us holds a unique place in the world. You may think someone can fill your place better than you can. "Everyone would be better off without me. I'm a burden, a bother, so inadequate." Baloney. I don't even know you, and I know that's not true. The reason I'm certain is because I know God created you with great love. You alone. Me alone. There is no mass production in divine creation. No snow-flake, leaf, pebble, or person is made from a mold. Why, you aren't even a limited edition. You are special, no matter what others say or what you may think. So forget about being replaced. You can't be.

As a teenager, I felt I was always letting people down. I was unconventional and rebellious on the outside, but on the inside I wanted people to like me.

At one point I left home to hitchhike to California from Colorado with my friend Penelope. The trip wasn't easy, and there were many times I didn't feel safe. One situation in particular left me grateful to still be alive. When I returned home, I was different - not so outwardly sure of myself.

I was very happy to be home. But then I noticed that Penelope, who was staying with us, was wearing my clothes. And my family seemed to like her better than me. I wondered if I would be missed if I weren't there. I told my mom, and she explained that while Penelope was a lovely girl, no one could replace me. I pointed out, "She is more patient and is neater than I have ever been." My mom said these were wonderful qualities, and there was nothing wrong with wanting to express them. But I was the only person who could fill my role. She made me realize that even with my faults, - and they were many - I was a loved member of the family who couldn't be replaced.

One day I watched "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" with my younger brother, and Mister Rogers looked right into the camera and said, "I like you just the way you are." I felt he was saying it to me, and it made me cry. I wanted to like me just the way I was. The key was to learn who was the real me and who was the fake me. Was I tender or tough, nice or mean, neat or messy? I didn't want to act a certain way just because someone else wanted me to.

I became a searcher, seeking out who I was and what made me unique. I began studying different religions and books. One book that made a lot of sense was "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. As I read it, I began to think of myself as a reflection of God, a God that is unchangingly good. Boy, did I need to hear that! My view of myself was changing. I wanted a solid base to start from, and I found it in studying the Bible and Science and Health.

It took time, but I began to see that, as a reflection of God, I couldn't include negative traits. I couldn't be offensive to others. I started to resist pressure to act in ways that I didn't like anymore, and I celebrated who I really was. On days when I still worried about how I appeared to others, I took some time to be quiet with God, to ask Him as a Father how I could reflect His qualities more consistently. I would look for comfort from God as a Mother and feel that nurturing encouragement cocoon me in love. And I came to feel much more sure that no one can ever take our place.

***

Are not two sparrows

sold for a farthing? and

one of them shall not fall on

the ground without your Father.

But the very hairs of your

head are all numbered.

Matthew 10:29, 30

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor