Kids – or in this case – kid’s books – say the darndest things.
It’s an expression perhaps many of us are familiar with.
And yes, interestingly, it was through a children’s book I recently came across that I was reminded of a simple truth.
It’s one which – at least in my case – has since been helpful in my walk with Christ.
As simple as this sounds, the reminder was that true lasting peace that passes understanding, as Jesus’ promised His followers in John 14:27, can only be found in Him.
He is the only place we find our true identity.
The story I read, penned by Max Lucado, is called A Hat for Ivan. It’s essentially about people pleasing and how we try to fit ‘moulds’ that others – whether intentionally or otherwise – think we belong in.
By way of synopsis, it goes like this.
In it, the tale is told of how the grown-ups in Ivan’s village, Hatville, wear a hat which shows what they love most or do best.
Ivan’s father is the village hat maker who assigns the right hat to each person.
Ivan is often privy to the process his dad goes through to create a hat that is perfect for each person, a decision solidified by the answer to the father’s question, “So, what do you love to do?”
Those specially crafted hats are bestowed upon each boy and girl in Hatville on their ‘hat day’, held when they reach the age of 10.
When Ivan’s own hat day comes, all the other residents of Hatville have their own ideas of what type of hat Ivan should wear.
On that day, as Ivan makes his way to school, Mr Felix the baker gives him a baker’s hat. Surprised that his hat hadn’t come from his father, the hat maker, Ivan tries on Mr Felix’ suggested hat, but it’s far too big and obscures his vision.
Further along the journey, Ivan subsequently encounters Miss Anita at her piano studio, followed by Bruno the firefighter.
Both also suggest respective hats for Ivan, but neither Miss Anita’s ill-fitting music hat, nor Bruno’s heavily laden firefighter’s hat fit Ivan well.
Truth be told, Ivan is not comfortable wearing either of them, but he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Throughout a day then spent at school, Ivan is given a wide variety of hats by several other people.
On his way home from school Ivan can barely carry all of the hats he’s been given, let alone wear them all.
Coupled with this is the fact he sees Mr Felix, Miss Anita and Bruno along his journey home – and has to make sure he is wearing the right hat in front of the right person, so as not to disappoint them.
Simply put, it’s an exhausting process – and one Ivan can’t do in his own strength.
At the end of our story, Ivan’s father finds him looking down-trodden amongst all the hats he’s received – wondering how he’ll ever manage to keep up appearances.
“It’s exhausting trying to carry around all the hats people think you should wear isn’t it?,” the father asks.
As the story ends, Ivan agrees that there’s no way he can please everybody, before taking his father’s suggestion to discover what hat will best fit him.
As the pair walk off, the father asks, “…so Ivan, what do you love to do?.”
The suggested take away from the book is that while it’s nice for people to give you ideas as to what hats they think you should wear, or what moulds you should fit, ultimately it’s the hat maker – who represents God – who knows the plans He has for you and where you best fit.
See, I don’t know about you, but for someone like myself, who can at times be prone to falling into the trap of pleasing people, this little illustration was a timely reminder.
If maybe you’re like me then people pleasing can at times leave you feeling somewhat worn out.
However, the lasting peace Jesus spoke of in John that we mentioned earlier can only be found in Him, by listening to the father’s voice which brings clarity in confusion.
It’s not found in chasing particular things we think will satisfy, a job, money, whatever.
Don’t get me wrong, those things in and of themselves are not inherently wrong.
And suggestions from others can sometimes be good and set us on a path towards what is for us.
God-given dreams and aspirations are amazing and we should strive to work towards those.
But if our sense of security, safety or even self-worth comes from anywhere other than in Jesus, then it is misplaced.
Nor can we afford to have any thoughts about ourselves that God doesn’t have towards us.
We shouldn’t try to fit moulds, or wear hats, just for the sake of trying to fit in – or to not disappoint people.
I suppose though, there have been times when we have all done that – I know I have.
In recent times, as God has begun working on my heart in terms of what is ‘of Him’ for me and, as I slowly begin to feel released from the need to please people, two passages of scripture in the Bible have been helpful as I intentionally listen for His voice and His calling.
In Matthew 14:22-33 we read of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in the midst of a storm.
As the disciples row across Lake Galilee, just before dawn, Jesus approaches them, walking on the water.
The disciples are initially afraid, but as Jesus confirms it is Him, Peter asks to walk to Jesus on the water.
“Come,” Jesus says.
It was Peter’s idea to get out of the boat and, according to the passage, as he looks to Jesus he makes it to a certain point on the water.
Then though, at the point Peter starts to notice the wind and the waves, he becomes afraid and begins to sink.
Of course Jesus stretches out his hand to save him, but here’s an interesting thought here – while His focus was on Jesus he stayed afloat.
Have you ever felt like you’re stinking under the weight of everything you’re trying to do, or the perceived expectations of others?
At times I feel as though suggestions of “Jeremy, what about this?” or “Jeremy, how about you try this?” or even “happiness is found in this Jeremy…” are analogies for me, like Peter, having taken my eyes of Jesus.
If I chase those suggestions too much, I can lose sight of what it is that God has actually put before me.
They become potential distractions that cause me to look at the waves. And in chasing all the other things, I need to remind myself ‘wait, what does Jesus say in this situation?”
It’s my heart’s desire that I do less and less looking at the waves – being pulled to and fro – and set my focus on Him more and more – because in the process of re-aligning our focus on Him, it becomes clear where we should be heading.
And we become more and more secure with who He’s made us to be.
That is the perfect peace Jesus spoke of.
In the moments where I feel overwhelmed or bogged down, in my mind’s eye I picture myself in Peter’s shoes and raising my eyes back up, shifting my focus off the waves, and back onto Jesus.
It’s a helpful reminder, at least for me, to stay intentional.
The other passage I have found useful is found in Luke 8:43-48, where we read of the woman with the issue of blood. As a crowd jostled for Jesus’ attention – pushing and shoving – she reaches out and touches Jesus’ clothing.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
The response was “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But this was different, above the hustle and bustle of the crowd Jesus felt the woman’s desire to be healed and would say to her, “your faith has made you well”.
Scripture tells us that Jesus did nothing apart from what he saw and heard the father doing.
So, even above the hustle and bustle of the scene we read of here, Jesus heard his father’s voice and acted.
Let’s face it, life can be so distracting sometimes.
Reading that passage – my prayer was “Lord, in my life too, over and above the ‘noise’ and business of life and everything that vies for my attention, may Your voice be the loudest one I hear.”
In situations where you can feel pulled in too many directions – as people pleasing can do, it’s His voice that brings clarity.
So my prayer is that we would, like Jesus, hear the Father’s voice over and above all other things.
For me, as God begins to speak to me about freedom from people pleasing, and as I learn to simply rest in who I am in Him despite situations where I could potentially feel ‘tossed about’, there is a simple question I am asking in prayer to help make sure I keep the main thing the main thing.
That being, keeping my eyes fixed on Him.
“Is that my hat to wear?”
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By Jeremy Smith
About the author
Jeremy is the assistant editor of Authentic Magazine.
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