I wonder how many different ideas I’d find if I searched Pinterest for “things to do with an egg carton.” I can’t make a very long list on my own because my black and white thinking just can’t find a lot of possibilities there, which is why I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this illustration when I taught the middle school group at church a couple weeks ago.
The main idea of the lesson was that when we think negatively about ourselves, it changes how we see ourselves. When we see ourselves in a negative light, all flawed and beat up, then we aren’t at our best. When we aren’t at our best and aren’t feeling good about how God made us unique, then we can’t play the role that God created just for us. The bottom line here was that in order to be at our best, we need to be kind to ourselves.
The next idea was the application: so how do I rewrite the negative script in my head and instead speak kindly to myself? One easy idea is to ask the people around you how they see you. Friends and family are usually pretty generous with the affirmation, especially when they know your tank is low. You know you have good friends when they are willing to speak truth over you and help you fight the lie in your head, even when it feels awkward. Another source of affirmation actually comes from the one who created you. He thinks very highly of his creation and how can the God of the universe be wrong? The bible is full of God’s truth about you. Now the temptation here for middle schoolers, and me, because we’re basically the same, is to weigh these two sources of affirmation the same. If they are both saying the same thing then they’re equal, right? And if they’re equal and one is easier to find and more tangible and gives me quick feels, then why wouldn’t I pick that one every single time? (We’re all a little middle school, aren’t we?)
Here’s the thing, we need to have God’s truth about us deeply rooted because the affirmation from others can’t fully fill us. Let me explain. You are an egg carton. (If you attempt to teach this lesson to middle schoolers you need to talk fast through this part before they have time to think of all the ways they are physically different from an egg carton. Trust me. Because middle school.) So, you’re an egg carton. And you function at your best when your carton is full, the fuller the better. The words of encouragement and affirmation from the people in your life are like pencils. (Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this. No, your mom is not a pencil. Stop talking and listen.) You can fill your egg carton very full with pencils. You can carry it around in place of your pencil box, if you’d like. The problem with this, though, is that the pencils can’t reach down and fill each of those deep, curved spaces. Pencils can lay on top of those spots, they can fit around the eggs in those spots, but they can’t go all the way to the bottom. The only thing that will reach to the bottom and completely fill that space is the one thing that was designed to go in that space….an egg. If you’re still tracking with the metaphor here, the eggs are the truths about you found in God’s word. Truths like you are loved and you are fearfully and wonderfully made, just to name a couple. When those truths have stretched to the depths of the container and filled the spaces they were made to fill and then you lay some pencils down the middle and along the sides to fill up the rest of the container, then you are operating at full capacity.
I know God can use people in my life to teach me more about who He is and what’s He’s like. But if I am seeking affirmation from those people in place of reminding myself about God’s truth, I’ll find myself trying to fill egg spots with pencils. It won’t exactly fill me up and it will still leave me longing for more.
So is your egg carton full of eggs or is it just an awkward pencil box?