Today, I want to talk about how “that child” sees so many things differently than you and I do.
I have some books I want to recommend and talk through. These are works that have completely changed the way I approach mothering and homeschooling.
First, The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias. I would highly recommend that you seize any chance to listen to Cynthia Tobias; she is a scream to hear in person. She is a very funny speaker but has tremendous insight. I actually got this book I think all the way back when we were beginning our homeschool journey. It has really helped me see some things I was blinded to.
Second, if you get a chance to hear Dr. Kathy Koch, I would highly recommend her. She is based out of Texas (my beloved state), and frequently speaks at the Hearts at Home conference and on Focus on the Family radio. Her book, How Smart Am I? is another must-read.
And thirdly is an work entitled Awakening Your Child’s Genius by Thomas Armstrong. He maintains, “We want to assist [children] in finding their inner genius and support them in guiding it into pathways that can lead to personal fulfillment and to the benefit of those around them.” He has said his writing is motivated by the desire to ensure that every child gets a chance to fulfill their potential. Obviously, this is an incredibly helpful perspective when you are learning to educate your “that child.”
That Child & The Way They Learn
I was really a struggling learner until about the eighth grade when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although I had incredible auditory skills, it wasn’t until we identified my dyslexia that I was able to process the different ways I learned.
So, when I stepped into home education I assumed that my kids would learn the same way that I did. I kind of slammed into the reality that this is not true. Cynthia Tobias’ premise in this book is that there are four quadrants: concrete, sequential, random, and abstract; and then combinations of those quadrants.
I tend to be a concrete and sequential learner. I want concrete examples that you can show me and I want them to go in order. Those are two very, very important things to me. I really believe that by and large, when I’m learning, those things are important to me. That’s how I assumed my children would also learn and need information. I believe this is generally how the education system functions.
Yet what I learned from this book was that that’s not how everybody learns. Our reality is our own normal, not necessarily that of everyone else, and so I was shocked to find out that my son was my complete opposite. I am concrete-sequential and he is random-abstract. I certainly couldn’t get my head around it.
I couldn’t appreciate his many questions, the things that he wanted to chase, the ideas that he had, the way that he saw things because I didn’t understand. I didn’t think the way that he saw things was legitimate. I’m here to advocate for the fact that, no matter where you are on this, how your child sees, and thinks, and takes in information, is indeed legitimate.
Not sure which type of learner you are? Tobias has included a brief survey so you can actually figure out which style(s) describe you and your children.
I wish that I had read the work of Dr. Armstrong when Charles (my first “that child”) was little. I literally had tears dripping off my chin when I read one of his articles on genius and I realized that my current “that child” (who is now taller than me, and in the 9th grade, eating me out of house and home) is so much like his older brother yet truly his own person.
Reading “Awakening Your Child’s Genius” brought me to tears! This was describing my two boys! Moms, if you’ve got a “that child” and you are just continually feeling like you are banging your head against the wall because you do not get where a particular question came from, or why they are interested in that random topic, or why did they do that thing with all of your straws… Anybody with me on this? Anybody?
You had plans for those straws and it wasn’t for that spontaneous craft project that they just completed. Right? Armstrong’s work gives you insight into all of that. Actually, I think it gives a lot of insight.
If this resonates, you can read even more from Dr. Thomas.
How We Are Smart
In her book, Dr. Koch talks about the eight intelligences: word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart, people smart, self smart. She validates each one of those, which is so important. So often we try to put everybody in the same box, but that is not the objective of raising the next generation of kids to change the world.
It certainly will fail every time, and twice on Sunday, if we try to put “that child” in a box of everyone else’s construction. We need to validate and affirm “that child” as a very unique blessing from the hand of the Almighty God. Again, as we use these tools to help them understand how God has wired them then we can help, and encourage, and foster, and nurture these intelligences, and maybe even some of the other ones they are not as strong for them.
So, I found this really, really helpful. But I want to get to my really favorite part and give you three do’s and three don’ts.
I’m here to tell you that “that child” is wired to be a world changer. We must not destroy the joy that they have! I get so excited about this. So, let’s go on and look at these qualities of genius. Again, I’m just going to briefly over each of them, give you a little bit of insight, and then you can read more for yourself.
The ways we learn
Oh, my goodness! If you have a “that child” you know that this is true. They have a curiosity way beyond our curiosity. In fact, often, their curiosity seems like they are not paying attention.
You may have heard me tell this story before but one time, and I do mean one time, because the outplay, the effect on my son, was so painful for him I determined that I was not going to subject him to that again. Certainly not at the young age that he was at the time. I took him and his brother to Reading Time at the library. I was literally that mom in the back of the room nursing the baby. Yeah. That doesn’t happen a lot in public anymore but that’s what I did all those years ago. So, I was sitting in the back and Charles, in Charles’ form, was on the front row. Right?
Anderson was dutifully sitting beside him and this woman, oh! I wish that I had the foresight at that time to mark down the book that she was reading. Anyway, he was up on his knees and he was so excited to be there to listen to the story. You know, we had a pattern of reading books at home. Right at the very end of the book, you know the woman, the librarian (I don’t have to say anything more about that), but at the very end of her reading she says, “Are there any questions?”
I literally went, gasp! Because I knew… She, she did that. Right? I knew that this was Charles’ moment and he was going to have a question. Why? Because we fostered that at our house. We were always talking, always having those discussions. His hand shot up. She said, “Yes?” And he proceeded to ask the question. Again, I really wish that I had known to write it down because it was just be so much more full, the story. He proceeded to ask the question that she did not think was on topic.
She, in that moment, said, “I would really appreciate it if the questions pertained to the story we just read. Is there anybody else that has a question?” And I saw Charles slump. Maybe you’ve seen that in your “that child”. Because this is what I knew as the mom in the back of the room, he was on topic! He was curious about something that was related. She just couldn’t see where he was where she was standing.
Often, our “that child” has questions that don’t seem related. It’s their curiosity. I really think that we want to foster that, and encourage that, as we have discussions with them.
This is another thing that we tend to discourage in our children. We tend to not want them to be silly. Dr. Armstrong, in this article, encourages them to be silly. They should be silly! We should have homes, and circumstances, and contexts in our immediate family where their silliness is welcome.
Now, we do need to teach them orderliness, it does have a place and a time. I know it’s challenging, but you know what I’m betting? That we need to die to our self and let them be more silly more often. These books talk about play being the highest level of development.
This is when kids can escape and imagine things being different, imagine things being better, imagining fantasies or dreams. We need to encourage those.
I have a daughter right now that’s writing a paper on Chesterton. He would often just lay in bed, and just think, and just imagine. His whole idea about imagination was that it was never wasted, that daydreaming is never wasted. Look, we often see one of our kids, our “that kid”, and we’re trying to accomplish something and they’re daydreaming. Certainly in the school system, we don’t have any patience for that. But according to this article, it’s valuable for them to have those fantasies, and those dreams, and for us to give them life, and discuss them, and smile when we see them imagining.
This is when we give them permission to come to conclusions in new ways, in ways that we wouldn’t have. This is an example of that. You may think that your “that kid” maybe isn’t very creative. Because see we often have a very narrow definition of what creativity is. We think it’s some artistic display. But it’s not always!
Creative thinking often manifests in answers to questions that we immediately assume to be wrong, and they’re not. For example, if you ask one of these kids, “What is… one plus one plus one is?” If they say, “Four!”, we would say it was wrong. Or if they said it was one we would say it was wrong. Look, if you’re creative in the way that you think the immediate question is, “One plus one WHAT?” Are you talking about one half plus one half?
Because one half plus one half is one. We would mark that answer wrong! But see they are being creative in the conclusions and the solutions that they’re coming to. These are kids that don’t test well because these are kids that argue and discuss through every answer that they are given in a multiple choice situation. We need to foster that creativity.
“How did you come to the conclusion that one plus one is one because that’s not true?”
Or you might have a child that you have taught Biblically and you might have an equation that says, “One plus one plus one equals?” and they wrote “one” thinking the Trinity. This is an example of that creativity. Look, to these kids, it’s not just about connecting the dots for them. They see dots that the rest of us don’t see. We don’t need to make them feel bad about that. We need to encourage that.
This is their natural astonishment at the world around them. This is something that, sadly, many of us grow out of. Again, you might have heard me tell this story but it fits here so I’m going to share it. One night there was a mother standing in the kitchen sink washing the dishes when her son comes running into the kitchen. He goes, “Mom! You’ve got to come right now. The sunset is so beautiful. There’s blue, and there’s orange, and there’s pink. Oh, mom! Come right now. See the sunset right now.”
Mom goes, “Just a minute. I’m going to finish these dishes.” You know what I know? That mom who got caught up in finishing the dishes, a few moments later her son comes moping in and says, “You missed it.” There will never be another sunset like that one that was right there. That child in the wonder, and the amazement, and the astonishment of Creation came in and wanted mom to share it with him. We were distracted, you and I, by the dishes.
May we not do that. May we dare to enter in into the wonder, and the astonishment they have by a sunset, or a bug, or a spider web, or lightening bugs. Anything the wonder of Creation. May we as Christians, Mom, point them to the glory of God’s majesty and His detail in every creative thing. This is an opportunity. This aspect of intelligence is our opportunity to point them to a holy, mighty God.
These are children who have wise insight beyond their years. It’s not based on any kind of experience. They’re very, very young. But they see things, they have this wisdom that they can make connections that sometimes we discount. Sometimes it’s in small pithy statements. I remember one of my kids, we went on a walk one night just around our neighborhood but it … trash and recycle day was the next day.
One of my kids said, “Wow! You can learn a lot by looking in someone’s recycle bin.” Goodness! Yeah, well yeah, you can. But I didn’t expect you to notice that. That would be an example of wisdom. When our children dare to say something like that, again, we need to take the time to unpack that with them.
- What do you see?
- What do you mean?
- What do you think that that tells us?
- What’s in ours that we are telling to other people?
- Why does that matter?
There’s so much opportunity for communication there.
This is about their willingness or ability to use ordinary things around your house for extraordinary purposes. I remember many years ago now when I was doing astronomy with my “that kid”, my original one, and we came to the point in astronomy where we were supposed to build the solar system.
Well me, remember concrete-sequential, I’m thinking, “Oh man! I didn’t get the styrofoam balls to make the solar system. Ugh! I didn’t get that so we can’t make the solar system.” Well something happened and I got called out of the room. I left him with his younger brother. When I came back they had made the solar system with pom-pom balls, and pipe cleaners, and construction paper for the ring around Saturn.
They had constructed it kind of like a mobile. I think the one maybe they had seen over the baby brother or sister’s bed. That is not at all how I would have constructed a solar system. But they were being so inventive with what they did with it. Inventiveness is what we need in order to solve the problems around us in culture and society. We need new inventions. That means you and I probably won’t always know where our scissors are. We probably won’t be able to squirrel away a box of straws for a special occasion.
But we need to be open to their inventiveness and again have those conversations.
- What did you see?
- How did you come to this conclusion?
- How did you solve this problem.
I remember in the movie “Apollo 13”, do you remember that movie with Tom Hanks, and here they had those astronauts up in this rocket ship and they had a major problem?
He comes in and he dumps these supplies on the table. He goes, this is all they’ve got. You need to figure out how to use what’s on this table so that they can breathe and we can get them home. The reason they were able to solve that is because those people around that table had this quality of inventiveness. They were able to look at things that you and I think, “that straw is made to drink something”, but “that kid” doesn’t see it that way. They see the straw having tons of different tools and we need to encourage that.
You and I might tend to think of vitality as having a negative connotation because we think of it as a rashness or impulsiveness. This is the aspect of genius that needs to do it now. They don’t want to wait. They want to do it now. This is an aspect of them that can be exhausting. But it’s also very exciting and invigorating if we allow it to be.
Their vitality is something that really spurs them on. We need to be responsive to them in our environment, in our home, and try our very best to respond to their vitality. This is one of the main reasons why I tried to keep a bunch of random stuff on hand all the time, straws, toilet paper tubes, empty containers of various kinds, I mean I literally had a tub of things. Glue, sequins, all of that kind of stuff, string, all sorts of different things for their vitality to bloom.
This, too, is a beautiful thing because these kids that have these qualities of genius tend to be far more sensitive than we give them credit for. I think this is often because we get caught up in how they make us feel. Like, maybe inadequate or unintelligent because sometimes they are just so far passed us. Sometimes they just make us want to pull our hair out. Sometimes they make us want to cry. They make us want to scream.
So, we discount their sensitivity and we should not do that. These kids have a level of sensitivity that the world has not been able to harden and I am so grateful. They have not been desensitized. These kids see something on the street and they want to do something about it. See, that combination of things, their sensitivity, and their inventiveness like we just talked about, and their vitality? They want to do something!
I took my “that kid” to New York City. I love that city. There are beggars on the streets of New York City and my “that kid” doesn’t want to just walk by. He wants to think of a way that we can help. What could we do? These kids are very sensitive to the problems of this world and that can ultimately be a motivation for them to change it and do something. So again, let’s not wish for them to be hardened. Let’s not want them to be a “big boy”. Let’s not insist that boys don’t cry. Let’s nurture that. Let’s fan the flames of that sensitivity.
Friends, remember that Jesus wept! He was sensitive; he wasn’t cold. And Peter wept bitterly after he denied Christ. Let’s not deny these kids that sensitivity that ultimately can motivate them to change the world.
Flexibility is this idea that they can move from reality to fantasy, to reality to fantasy. They can go from metaphors to facts. They are very fluid in their associations.
Often this is scolded in the system. This was scolded in my house when I was a young homeschool mom. I was so aggravated with his flexibility. We would be talking about, I don’t know, the constitution and he wants to talk about The Hobbit in the same sentence. And I’m confident that he’s not paying attention. But it’s not that he’s wasn’t paying attention. He was just very fluid in his associations. He really was thinking about both of them. He truly was thinking about the concreteness of the constitution and the fantasy of The Hobbit at the same time.
Humor is one of the things that I am passionate about, and I believe in, and that we need to make sure we have lots of in our parenting of “that child”. In fact, according Dr. Armstrong, it is one of the qualities of genius.
Our ability to laugh at situations and things, and more than anything, ourselves, is so valuable. We need to be able to laugh. It’s like a pressure valve when things get tough. It’s not always a time to laugh; but we need to give our kids permission to laugh as they make associations.
This is this core component. We need to chase their joyful things, that which brings them joy, and encourage their joyfulness because that is what is fanning the flames what they are chasing and what they are learning about. Let’s not kill their joy.
I want to challenge you to observe that child. Observe how they learn, how they take in information. Whether it’s random, abstract, concrete, sequential from Cynthia Tobias, or if it’s different kinds of intelligence by Dr. Koch, or if it’s these twelve qualities of genius. Even if you want to journal about different things that you see, observe them.
Next, discuss it with them. When you see them make a quirky connection, or ask a seemingly unrelated question, or take all of your straws and make a spaceship, have a discussion with them. Dare to say, “What? Where did that even come from? I don’t even understand… Help me to understand what popped in your mind that you would ask about a necklace when we are discussing the Treaty of Versailles? How did you get there?”
Look, you and I do not have it all figured out. We have a lot of things that we can learn from our kids. As you start to see them do things differently I pray that it would expand our minds and we would start to consider things. That we would be reawakened in our astonishment of God’s Creation and our wonder, and the connections that we make, and the creative ways we think about different things. We will still face problems and need solutions every day, so let’s learn from them in the process.
Finally, three things don’t do.
Don’t assume that they are wrong. Don’t assume that they are off topic. Don’t assume they are not paying attention. We should not assume. These kids, remember what I talked about so many times when we are talking about “that kid”?
It’s got to be hard for them to them. Because so often everybody assumes that they know that they are off topic, assumes that they are not thinking, assumes that they are not paying attention. Let’s not be one of the people that assumes.
Don’t shame them. Let us not shame them because they do it different from the way that we do it. That genius at your house, “that kid” that thinks outside the box, isn’t going to do it like everybody else. But that doesn’t mean that we need to shame them. We need to encourage them for how differently they do things.
Don’t discount their conclusions or their perspectives. They are valid. Remember, God needs unique perspectives, and descriptions, and conclusions as long as they are based on the truth. He needs those to solve the problems of this world.
I want to talk a little about that darned sin nature that rears its ugly head and often (as least we think) we see it more often in “that child.” It’s often accompanied by some real defiance and an attitude. Even what may be the most terrifying for most of us, is this response to having lied or sinned in any way. This attitude of “So? Who cares?” That is very disconcerting and it should be.
It’s NOT a phase
I have heard before people talk about children and their behavior and different things, and they’ll say things like, “Eh, it’s just a phase. It’ll pass.”
My friends, it’s not just a phase that will pass! It’s sin which is a serious issue. So, if you are in a circumstance with a sinful behavior with your “that child”, or one of your other kids or even in yourself, it needs to be taken seriously. We cannot blow it off. We cannot even have a “deal with it later” mentality.
The first sign of sinful behavior should arrest us. We should deal with it immediately, in ourselves and in our children.
Before we can talk about the whole issue of behavior, though, I want to back up the bus. I think too often we settle for dealing with behavior and we totally leave out the heart issues.
I want to double dog dare you. Don’t reduce the bar of behavior. Don’t settle for the bar of “do it because I told you so”. We are in a world now that is sending a really mixed message to this generation. They are really confused about what it means to be a man or a woman of integrity.
While most of our culture says it’s OK to do just about anything as long as you don’t get caught, I’m fairly certain that’s not the standard in which you want to raise your children. I’m going to challenge you today to raise that bar and elevate it to be, “We obey because God said so.”
We might have compliant kids that will fall in line and they’ll have integrity, and they’ll be honest, at least they’ll try to, but without the power and the might of the Holy Spirit within them to strengthen them, to be all those things, they’re not ever going to achieve and be the young men and women that they need to be to, to be the young men and women that God’s planned for them to be, to be part of the generation that’s going to change the world.
So we must elevate that standard. We’ve got to give them a why. The why can’t just be, “Because I told you so.” It cannot be, “Because you make me look good when you obey.” It’s got to be more than that. It’s got to be deeper than that.
We must teach our children that the importance of obeying is because it glorifies and honors a mighty, living God, the sovereign of the universe.
We hold them up
Where do we start with these issues of sin in the lives of our children? We start the way that Ted Tripp talks about starting in his seminars and that is, we hold up before our children every day a holy, mighty, awesome God, the God of the universe, and we say, “Oh, my children, that you would know God. That you would KNOW God.”
When we introduce our children to God it makes all the difference! If we are just going to be about trying to formulate their behavior…do this don’t, do this, do this, don’t do this…we aren’t reaching their heart and we are short-selling ourselves and them.
We are not giving them the motive that they need. So, we must start by introducing them to the God of the universe.
When they get who He is, when you and I get who He is, it makes all the difference. It changes how we behave from the inside out, which is what real change is.
I’m sure you’ve heard the one about the little boy who was sitting in his high chair who was 18, maybe 24 months old, and his mother kept telling him to sit down. She says, “Johnny, sit down.” And he won’t sit down. She goes over and sits him down. She turns around and he stands up. She says, “Johnny, sit down!” She goes over and helps him to sit down. She turns around and she notices that Johnny’s sitting down. She says, “Johnny, thanks for sitting down!’ He says, “I’m standing in my mind.”
Look, Johnny wasn’t changed from the inside out. It was a game to him. I don’t want my children to be in a game of behavior. I don’t want them to only do what I want them to do when I’m looking. I want them to do what they ought to do because the God of the universe is on the throne.
I want to invite you, get to know this God of the universe. The bottom line is you and I are not without sin either and our kids know that. As you and I come into a deeper, richer, more abiding relationship with the King of the Universe, guess what? Our kids witness our being changed from the inside out, in subtle and not so subtle ways.
One of my best tools is “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. This is a very readable book by a man who was sold out to the cause of Christ and to God, the Father, all about having a higher view of God.
We have reduced God in our culture, and I’m going to dare to say it, in our churches, we have reduced God to merely being our bell boy who is supposed to do whatever we ask Him to do, in faith.
Look, God doesn’t owe us anything. He has already given us the ultimate gift, His only begotten, not made, Son who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. He doesn’t owe us anything!
It’s all about Him.
We have an opportunity to glorify Him. This life that we are living here is not about us. It’s all about Him. As we look to Him, as we point our children to Him, as we embrace His sovereignty when nothing makes sense, as we appreciate and give Him glory when we’re confused and when we’re tired and when we’re overwhelmed, when we seek to serve Him in all we say and do, we honor His holy name, and our behavior is like incense to those around us and they’re drawn to Him.
The first step in affecting, for God’s glory, this sin nature of your child, is first you have to acknowledge that they have one. They’re all born with one. If you doubt that visit a friend with an infant. They all came that way.
Selfishness and pride are at the core of our being. We are sons of Adam and we have a sin nature.
But if we want to remedy that, we cannot reduce this to “do what I say”; we must first hold up before them a Holy and Mighty God and get to know Him together. Get to know Him through singing praise worship songs, through singing the old hymns.
Get to know Him in a nature walk, the beauty and the majesty of His creation, get to know Him by reading about him in books like A.W. Tozer, and get to worshipping Him.
Introduce your kids to the God who not only deserves their obedience but is worthy of their praise.
Next, after we’ve had an introduction to the God of the universe, we need to start talking to our kids about what sin is. Again, we have failed in this way, not just in our families to discuss what sin is, we have failed in our churches.
Some churches, in fact, pride themselves in not using the sin word in their services for fear that it might make some people uncomfortable.
The reality is we have a massive, deadly, lethal self-sin issue. If we don’t talk about sin then there’s no need for a savior.
We must talk about sin to our kids. We must acknowledge sin in ourselves and sin in them. There’s no sense in talking about it being a phase. It is an offense to the Holy, mighty God of the universe when we sin. Sin means when we fall short of the glory of God.
In Leviticus 19:2 we are told, “Be holy as I, the Lord your god, am holy.” That’s the standard. We are to emulate Him. We are to be and live as daughters and sons of the king of kings, His ambassadors.
Live a life that’s worthy
We are to live a life, worthy. When we don’t do that, when we fall into sin, we offend the Holy, Mighty God.
So, what’s His response to the sin? Here’s the deal, His response to sin is His wrath. It is a just response. The Holy God of the universe cannot exist where sin exists. It is not possible for Him to be where sin is.
But, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.
Not only does God have just wrath upon our sin but He offered us freely a solution in the gift of His son, who was the holy lamb of God.
Remember when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and he said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin, whole, of the world.”
That lamb of God lived a perfect, sinless life as he walked on this earth. He laid down His life.
They didn’t take it from Him. He laid it down as he outstretched his arms on the cross of Cavalry and paid our sin price.
Only a perfect, spotless, lamb of God can pay our sin price. That’s what Jesus Christ did.
These are the truths that we discuss with our children. We talk to them about how holy and mighty, and sovereign, and glorious God is. We talk about the issue of sin and the real penalty. Then we talk about the beautiful solution that God has given in the gift of His son.
Because He loves us
As we are having these conversations in an ongoing manner, around our house, as we drive, as we are having these ongoing conversations about God’s glory and His goodness, about our sinfulness, about His goodness and His grace, His everlasting forgiveness, His loving kindness that endures forever, the psalmist writes, we talk about the sin.
As they come into fellowship, as they come to acknowledge and know who God is, there is a natural brokenness that comes when sin comes.
Look, our culture tells us that we don’t need God. Our culture tells us that our sin isn’t so bad. Our culture tells us that we are going to be OK. The reality is that God’s word says that we’ve got a problem. But because of His glorious love for us and His grace, He’s given us a way to come into a relationship with Him. That’s through the gift of His son.
When we frame behavior away around “have to”, we don’t do the right things because we might get in trouble doing the wrong things, we don’t do the right things because we are terrified of the consequences. Our motivation is not coming from a relationship with the Father.
We must do the right thing because it honors God. Not because we have to but because we get to.
We elevate the motive for being honest and good. and kind. and generous. and selfless. and self-controlled. That’s why we do it.
We do it because we have an opportunity every day to give Him glory and praise as we worship Him in all we say and do.
As we live a life worthy of that to which we’ve been called.
Confession: I was “that child”. So, a lot of the “that child” stuff I get because I am speaking from experience! It’s not that hard for me.
For those of you who weren’t “that child,” and have given birth, or adopted a “that child”…let me say that I pray for you. We are unique creatures and it is a journey into our world and to try to understand us. But I really believe that most of the time it’s worth it.
Today I want to talk about a character in the Bible whom you probably just love and admire.
I know that I have long admired this particular character. One day I was thinking there’s got to be a Biblical character we can relate to, and probably you would also agree, there’s probably even several “that child” examples in the Bible.
I am going to suggest to you that I believe the primary example, Biblically, of “that child” and in the most positive of terms, would be Peter in the New Testament.
I believe this so much so, in fact, I have often thought that if I had known that my oldest son, Charles, was going to be as much of “that child” as he has become I probably would have aptly named him Peter.
Could This be “That Child?”
Peter was a fisherman. Historically, most scholars believe that he was the oldest apostle.
Yet, when Jesus said, “Follow me,” one of the most amazing first acts of Peter’s life was, he followed. He followed Christ.
Now, you and I might think of that as rash. He didn’t really know Christ. But when Christ looked at him there must have been something about Christ that when Peter saw that look in his eye, when Peter heard that invitation extended, Peter got it. He was like, “Yeah, I want to follow you.”
He followed. That’s huge, that’s very powerful. We also see examples of brashness. Examples of enthusiasm. Examples of passion, and charisma, that God can used in Peter’s life.
As we are walking through this I want you to consider your “that child.” Are these things that you see in them. Are these examples of things that they do? And that currently may be really driving you crazy and aggravate you?
Could it be that as we look at the life of Peter today we can start to look at those things a little differently, with grace, and with insight, and with wisdom, and stop allowing the enemy to make all of these actions look awful just because they are not the actions we wanted or thought they should have been?
Let’s start to look at these behaviors just a little differently.
Your “that child” also needs to know that they’re not alone. That there’s hope and that God has a plan. Just like God had a plan for Peter, God has a plan for them.
He Dared to Go
Next we’ll look at an account where Jesus has been up all night praying. His disciples have been fishing all night. It says that they were battered by the waves. They were trying so desperately to catch something, catch anything, and then out of the darkness of the storm (they’re exhausted, they’re tired, they’re discouraged) here comes Jesus walking on the water.
Peter sees it and he says, “Lord, you tell me to come and I will come.”
Jesus simply says, “Come.”
We know that Peter, out of all of those disciples in the boat, Peter is the only one that dared to get out of the boat and actually walk on the water.
I want you to suggest to you today, as you consider Peter, how did he get out of the boat? Because I’m betting, if I think of Peter and the totality about what we know about him in Scripture, he didn’t gingerly step over the side of that boat.
I would like to suggest to you that he hurdled the side of the boat.
He was so enthusiastic, and so rash, and so passionate, about everything he did. Look, I believe that Peter had the same mantra that I often live by. Play hard or go home.
That’s how he lived. It was all or nothing for Peter.
So we see that Peter gets out of the boat and actually walks. He’s successful as long as, what? As long as he focuses his eyes on Christ. But Scripture tells us clearly that he got distracted by the waves and he went down. Jesus extended his hand and pulled him up.
That’s “that child”. So enthusiastic, so excited, so passionate about what they’re doing, and yet often easily distracted.
Who Do You Say?
The next example I want to talk to you about is when Jesus asked Peter, “Hey!” (He’s actually asking all of the disciples.) “Who do they say that I am?”
They said, “Well, some say that you are Elijah. Some say you’re this person.” And Jesus looks squarely at Peter and says, “No, no, no. Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter said (get this, get the insight that Peter has), Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Whoa! Peter got who Jesus was. In the midst of the confusion, in the midst of the teachers of the law, and the scribes and the Pharisees who studied the Old Testament, who had all the prophecies, who should have got who Jesus was, they didn’t get it!
If they did, they denied it. But Peter, a fisherman, got who Christ was. He made that bold statement saying who Christ was. You’ll remember that Jesus said, “On this rock, on the rock of that confession, I will build my church.” It’s just beautiful.
Another example is when Jesus took the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. So you remember, there was Peter and then James and John were called the sons of Thunder. They were actually the sons of Zebedee.
They had quite a reputation. The three of them were like Jesus’ inner circle. And there are several occasions in Scripture where we see Jesus takes those three, in a special way, aside to teach them something or show them something.
In this instance, He takes them up on the Mount of Transfiguration. You’ll remember that Peter was elated, literally beside himself. If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve seen that. There are times when they are just so enthusiastic, and so joyful, and so into what’s going on that they are not thinking straight. That was true in this instance with Peter.
In this situation Peter is like, “Ah! This is awesome! We’ll stay right here on the mountain and I’ll build a tent for you, and for you, and for you!”
You can just kind of see Jesus go, “Ugh, Peter! No! That’s not the point of me bringing you up here. It wasn’t for us to stay on the mountain, Peter. I brought you up here on the mountain so that we could go back down off the mountain.” The Lord Christ did not explain that to Peter but it’s implied in Scripture as Jesus just moves forward.
Remember the Last Supper?
The lowest job that any servant would have had at this last supper, indeed in this culture, would have been the servant who would have washed the feet of all in attendance for this dinner. These feet would have been really dirty, and yucky, and grimy, and smelly. But even in all the preparation that the disciples had made for the last supper there had not been anyone chosen to wash their feet.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, saw again (this is the pattern throughout Christ’s walk on the planet), he saw a need and he responded to it. We call that compassion.
Here once again, in the Biblical account of what Jesus did, we know that he saw the need. Instead of doing what I would have wanted to do, and maybe what many of you wanted to do, and assign the task to someone else, he simply (Scripture says) lay aside his outer garment, just like he had laid aside his right to be equal with the Father.
He girded himself, it says. He poured water in a basin, to symbolize he was about to pour out his life. He then got down on his knees and began to wash their feet. It’s really a powerful picture!
I think a hush must have fallen across the room. As Jesus is down on his knees, washing their feet (and it’s a story for another day, but let this sit on you for a minute), Judas went to deny Christ with clean feet. Because Jesus washed their feet before Judas left.
Anyway, he comes to Peter, and it’s time. It’s clear what Jesus is doing. Peter was not the first person, not the first set of feet that Jesus washed. And Jesus comes to Peter and Peter goes, “You’re not washing my feet!”
Do you see that? Do you see the passion again? Do you see the pride, the arrogance of Peter? “You’re not going to wash my feet!” Yet Christ, who is our example, responds compassionately, and patiently, with Peter.
As the dinner goes on Jesus tells them again that he is going to be betrayed and he’s going to die.
Peter says, “I will die with you.”
Jesus looks at him and says, “Peter, before the cock crows, before the rooster sounds his morning call, you will deny me three times.” Ugh! That had to hurt. That had to sting. To hear the lord and master that he was pledging allegiance to, turn to him and says, “Oh, Peter, no. Not this time.”
Yet there must have been something in Peter that was like, “NO! It can’t be true!”
The Bible says that they sang a hymn and they went out. They go to the garden. Once again, we have another example of how Jesus let the disciples “stay here” and he took that inner circle, Peter, James, and John, a little further Scripture says, and he asked them to pray. Then it says that Jesus went a little further and fell down and prayed to the Father.
He just went and called out to the Father, and begged, and begged, and begged for another way to save mankind and to glorify the Father. Finally, Jesus comes back the third time. They’re sleeping and he says, “Here comes my betrayer.”
He goes to meet those who had come to arrest him. It’s really remarkable in Scripture when you hear how many people came to arrest Christ. He, himself says, “Look. I was in the temple many times. I was in the marketplace many times. You could have taken me. You don’t need all of this.” In fact, when Jesus said, “Who are you seeking?” and they said “Jesus” he said, “I am.”
You’ll notice, in Scripture it says they fell back. That was the power of who he really was. It is at this moment, when they have come to arrest Christ, that Peter takes his sword out and hacks off the ear of Malchus.
I want to promise you that Peter was not aiming for Malchus’ ear. I’m confident that in that day and time it wasn’t the way to defeat your enemy, to cut off their ears. I’m pretty sure that Peter was aiming for Malchus’ throat, and Malchus ducked, and all Peter got was his ear.
Again, you see Jesus going, “Ugh! Peter! Put it away. That’s not what this is going to be about.” Then it says they went on to arrest Christ. Peter followed, at a distance. See, Peter is now wanting to watch. But he’s probably forgotten about that prediction that Jesus made. In fact, we know he has! Because John helps to get Peter into the inner courtyard where Jesus is being tried.
Three times, Scripture tells us, that Peter did indeed deny his Christ there. When the cock crowed upon the third time it says he went away despairing. He knew in that instance everything that Christ had said, the whole ministry, must have come rushing back to his mind.
But here’s the turning point, on Sunday morning when there came a knock at the door, and the women were saying the tomb was empty, it says that Peter and John ran to the tomb. In fact, it’s more specific than that. When John’s gospel is written, John says that he beat Peter but when Peter got there he didn’t respectfully stand outside of the empty tomb. Peter went all the way in just like we would expect that child to do! He didn’t stand aside. He went in to see for himself that Christ’s body was resurrected and was not there.
Do You Love Me?
Then, the next time we see Peter he’s fishing and Jesus is on the seashore. He’s asking them if they have caught anything. Peter says,“ If you say to put the nets on the other side that’s what I’ll do.” He does and they make a catch. It’s on that seashore that day that Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter at first flippantly answers, “You know that I love you!”
Jesus looks at him again and says, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter answers, “Yes, I love you!” Then Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” And a third time, three times, once for each one of Peter’s denial, Jesus Christ affirms Peter back, all the way back, as a disciple of Christ.
So this Peter who denied, this Peter who was rash, this Peter who acted before he thought, Jesus pulled him all the way back, forgave and affirmed him for his denial, and launched him into ministry that still blesses Christians today as he was an example on the day of Pentecost. You’ll read in the book of Acts that it’s says, “…And Peter, taking his stand.” Yes, it was on the day of Pentecost that among all the other disciples, when everyone was criticizing them and assuming that they were drunk, it was Peter who stood up and made the case for Christ.
Obviously, he went on to write first and second Peter. We also know that when it came time for Peter to die he refused to be crucified in the same way that Christ had been and was actually crucified upside down.
Be Encouraged, Mom
Look, it’s very easy to get discouraged with our “that child” and it’s very easy for us to think that God cannot use them. But I think today’s example of Peter is a primary example of the fact that God does need strong men and women, often we refer to them as “that kid”, to grow his kingdom, to stand up for Him.
They’re going to make mistakes, just like Peter did.
They’re going to be rash, just like Peter did.
But do you see how beautifully Christ kept drawing Peter in, and affirming him, and being patient with him?
Mom, that’s our job. Our job is to not break their passion, to not steal their charisma, to not discourage their enthusiasm, but to bend it in the direction of Jesus Christ so that they can change the world for the goodness and the glory of God.
Go and enjoy your “that child”. God has great plans for them, and God has great plans for you, too, Mom.
I want you to think for a moment of the little precious face that is your “that child”.
When I am speaking at a women’s event on the topic of “that child”, I’ve started sending around a sheet so that all the moms can put the name of their “that child” on the piece of paper. Then I pray over all those names because I figure we are in this battle together for the hearts and minds of these little ones. At one conference recently, one of the mothers wrote six names. I think she was thinking all of them were her “that child”. I’m here to tell you, I pray for that mom!
Whomever in your family is your “that child” I want you to keep that face at the front and center of your mind today as we discuss “What they aren’t and what they are.”
Before I start my list, I want to remind you that my “that child” journey has been a long one. My oldest son is actually my original “that child” and I have one that I am currently working with. Some days are better than others just like probably in your home; if you’ve got a “that child” you know exactly what I mean. They’re unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. They might be in a fabulous mood and when they’re in a great mood you wouldn’t sell them for anything. But when they’re in “that mood” you might just give them away!
Three things to remember about “That Child”
I was just confident that some of these things are not true. I was sure that they were true. I want to help you get over these lies faster than I did and reframe “that child” for you.
- First of all, I want to assure you that your “that child” (whether you have one, or six), I want to assure you that “that child” is not divine payback for your childhood.The God of the Universe loves you, and me, enough not to leave us where he finds us. He is constantly in the process of glorifying himself and growing us. Often, he will allow things to show up in our children to get our attention. If you have a “that child” they have your attention! God should have your attention. That ought not mean they have your frustration and your resentment.
- Number two, they are not broken. When I first had my oldest son, Charles, I was confident that he was messed up and he was broken. God loved Charles enough to send him to me because I could fix him. Do you hear the arrogance and the pride in that? Yes, I thought that he was broken and he needed to be fixed.We talked about last week the issue of the sin nature in “that child” which sometimes is far more evident than in the other children we have that might be more compliant. Those children might be more prone to apologize, or repent, if you just look in their direction. They’re convicted by the Holy Spirit and they respond to that. “That child” however, their defiant rebellion, makes the sin nature often more visible and vile to us.
“That child” isn’t broken but they a are sinner just like you and me and we need to treat it like that.
Remember, the way we deal with the sin nature in “that child” is the way we need to deal with it within our own lives. That is, we need to make sure we are getting to know who God is every day. My dear friend talks about this as a high view of God. When we get who God is, we are broken by our sin because we realize that our sin separates us from a loving, holy mighty God in who’s presence sin cannot co-exist. But because of his great love for us, He sent his son.
- Finally, your “that child” is not THE problem at your house. When we were first parenting Charles, and as we had six more children come along, I often felt that pain of not spending time with one of the other children because I was having to deal with him!I just want to say to you something none of us want to verbalize, but there were moments when I thought, “What if…” That’s raw and that’s ugly, because in those moments I thought the whole problem was HIM!
Look, your “that child” is not the problem in your home. They’re just NOT!
I know a lot of people who would say, “If it weren’t for “that child…” But, I promise you, they’re not the problem. We need to keep that in mind.
Look, if you’re thinking that your child is divine payback, if you’re thinking “that child” is broken, if you’re thinking that your “that child” is the problem at your house, you may think that you’re hiding it from them but they know. They know how we feel about them. Even if we think that we are hiding it, even if we are telling them we love them…. Because, look, there was a point in my parenting my oldest, my original “that child”, that I loved him… Because I had to, I was his mom. But let be honest. I didn’t like him too much. The reality is, you can’t hide that, Mom. You can’t hide that!
We’ve got to deal with these lies that we’ve chosen to believe about “that child”, we’ve got to acknowledge them as lies, and they are not true! These are not true about “that child”.
Here are three things that are true about “that child”. Three things that I want challenge you to embrace.
- Your “that child” is a divine invitation to draw closer to God.If my original “that child”, my first born, had been compliant and obedient, cooperative and calm, and all the things I thought I wanted my kids to be, I wouldn’t have needed God. I would have thought I was doing it. I would have thought that I was the most amazing parent on the planet.
I have a friend who had three compliant children. THREE! She told me that she used to criticize and judge from across the room other parents with “that kid”. She didn’t even realize what she was doing. Her first three children we so cooperative and so obedient. She would look at other people whose children who would throw fits and not behave she would think, “Oh my goodness! If you would just know how to parent. If you would just this… If you would just that…”
If you’ve got a “that child” you’ve heard that kind of criticism! You’ve encountered that kind of judgment.Then my friend had baby number four. Guess what? She gave birth to the most consummate “that child” I have even known! He would give my oldest a run for his money. All that judgment, and all that criticism, she had been so happy to dole out to everybody else? She had a lot of repentance and work to do with God. This is a story she shared with me. She is now so grateful to have had her own “that child” and to walk in the grace that she’s been given.
That’s the divine invitation; is to draw nearer to God! Your “that child” gives you a front row seat to your own sin. An invitation to walk in the grace that you’ve been given, and to continue to live a life of repentance and conviction, and let His grace, and forgiveness, and mercy wash over you. Embrace the patience that He has with you and me. I am overwhelmed with the patience that God has with me when I deal with my “that child”.
The reality is it’s an opportunity for us to look in the mirror and own our issues that sometimes we’ve not dealt with. God divinely allows it to show up in one of our children. Know what? Our sin is usually a lot more hideous when it shows up in somebody else’s face. But it’s just as hideous to God.
- Your “that child” is a blessing not a curse. A gift from the hand of God. Do you remember Psalm 139 when it talks about the Master of creation is weaving inside of you a unique person? This child is a gift from the hand of God. That’s one of my favorite things about being pregnant, feeling that child move within me and just imagining God weaving this person together. A gift from the hand of God.It’s not a curse, not a curse!
We often will think of “that child” as “THAT child”. If we could just do something with THAT one. Right? No!
They’re a blessing. Your “that child” is a blessing from the hand of God. Not a menace but a blessing. Given for your happiness and your well-being. God loved you enough to give you “that child” to you to draw you closer to him and to show you the marvelous works of His mercy and His grace.
- Finally, your “that child” is a unique person for God’s glory. Your “that child” is going to have questions about things that none of the rest of your other children even think about. They are going to just connect dots when no one else in the room can. They are going to see dots that no one else even sees, and connect them in unique ways.Your “that child” is out of the box. They’re not a round peg that fits in any hole at all. They’re never going to be able to be characterized by a formula. Your “that child” is totally unique! God has a plan for “that child”, uniquely gifted, uniquely talented, unique perspective, unique solutions! Your “that child” is totally unique for the specific purposes that God has made “that child”.
He Has a Plan
We know that the overriding purpose for each one of our lives is to glorify God. God has a plan to use those unique perspectives, those questions that are probably driving you crazy, those answers that you have never thought, or those questions that you have never even thought of, God has a plan to use all of that.
Let us not be the ones that just berate them and allow our exasperations to characterize our relationship with them. Let’s hug that child as the unique gift that they are from God. Let’s cradle their face in our hands and say to them, “I’m so glad that God sent you to this family. I’m so glad that you’re here.”
Mom, I want to give this as an invitation to you not just because you love that child because you have to, but to like that child, and be grateful for that child, because you are blessed to be raising “that child”.
“That child” is a world changer.
Go give him a hug!
It is my heart’s passion to encourage you in raising that child. As the mother of at least two, probably more like two or three or four of “Those Children” myself, they really do have my heart. I know how challenging they can be but I also know what a joy and what a privilege it is to be their mom. I’m here to encourage you.
Today I want to look at something very near and dear to my heart. That is the issue of how to bend “That Child” without breaking “That Child”.
I know what it’s like to have a day with “That Child” where you just want to yell and scream. You just want to tie them in a knot. You’re just at the end of your rope. Whether it’s the incessant questions or it’s the confronting your authority, or the belligerence, or the inability to focus….I remember one time sending my “That Child” who is now much older to the mailbox to get the mail. I was distracted by all the other children in the house and didn’t realize how long he had been gone. When he came back in, about 30 minutes later (p.s. It’s only about a minute walk to and from our mailbox!) he had done everything but what? Get the mail!
Yes, I know about those long days when focus flies out the window.
Another time I sent him downstairs to get a roll of paper towels. He came back with…. A hammer! It can be very frustrating. I get it, my friend.
I get the frustration that can just build. I know that you do, too. I don’t know if it’s been that day at your house. I want to talk to you about how do we bend these kids and not break them? We are not called to break them.
My two youngest sons that are now 14 and 13 have recently gotten really kind of deep into entomology. That’s the study of bugs. They procured a beetle for this unit of study. This beetle was very, very, very stiff. There was no way that they could spread out the legs of this beetle, or his antennae. They couldn’t do anything. In fact, this beetle actually had wings underneath this hard shell; but there’s no way that they could expose those wings in order to see the beauty of this beetle. Enter the softening chamber. This is just a piece of Tupperware with an airtight seal, some damp paper towels, and a moth ball so that this little beetle becomes movable.
He had to sit in that in that airtight chamber for 3 or 4 days. The boys could just wait for this beetle to soften up and be malleable, to be movable, so that they can go in and manipulate the parts and study this beetle.
What does that process have to do with bending and not breaking “That Child”? I want to suggest to you, a whole lot! Very often our kids are a lot like that atrophied beetle…really hard and really stuck in a single position. We want to come in and just force this beetle to do what we want it to do. In fact, the boys have had an experience or two where they didn’t wait long enough. Apparently, the anticipation of studying this beetle really builds. They would get impatient! (Sound familiar?!)
They would just jump right in and start opening wings, moving a leg or antennae. And guess what…wings broke off, legs broke off, antenna broke off and the boys would end up really frustrated. Because it probably only needed another 24 hours.
I think this speaks directly to us as moms because all too often, just like my boys see in these little beetles, we can see in our children what they could be. We can see the beauty of what God’s created and the position that God has formed them for in this universe and we have a vision for what they could do in God’s kingdom.
But then we go and we don’t wait for them to grow into that position on their own. We want to cut to the chase instead of enjoying the journey. We end up, breaking that child, just like my boys would break a beetle that simply wasn’t ready to be handled yet. Now, I don’t think we mean to do this, but we are capable, of breaking “That Child”.
What I want you to know is this: they’re a lot more sensitive than you might think they are. I know with my original “That Child”, I was confident that he was behaving the way he was behaving just to get at me. I was confident that he knew exactly what he was doing. But all this time later I can tell you this, let me just tell you, young mom of a “That Child” who has driven you crazy today… they are not doing it on purpose. They really are unaware of what they are doing in most instances.
Look, I get that there are times when they push every one of our buttons at the same time. I know what that’s like. But I also know that there’s a lot of time when they are just wrestling through being them. They’re really not trying to push all your buttons. They really kind of accidentally rubbed up against them.
Three keys to raising that child
- Humility is key. In order for us to mold these children into the young men and women, the warriors for the Kingdom, that God intends for them to be, we ourselves must come to this task broken. Humble. We cannot come to this task of molding our children, and discipling our children, if we have not dealt with our own brokenness. If we have not yet come to terms with how desperate we are for a Savior, if we are not aware of how much forgiveness, and grace, and mercy has already been bestowed upon us, then we are not in a position to bend anyone.We must first bend our own knees before we can invite our children to bend their knees. Guess what? They know. We might be able to fool everyone else in our lives but we can not fool “That Child”. The key is for us to come humble, for us to come submitted. Look, your kids get to see how you live this every day of your life. If Mom is submitted to God, does she worship Him? Does she sing praise to Him? Does she point others to Him? Does she have the joy of the Lord and the confidence, and the hope of salvation every day?
Mom, before we can begin this task we must deal with our own hearts.
- Build that relationship. Next, I want to suggest to you that we need to focus on making our kids malleable and moldable. How do we that? We do it by loving them.
Remember in the Bible when Paul wrote, “Christ loved us while we were unlovable?” That’s true! God didn’t wait until you and I had it all together and all figured out. I’ve known people in my past who were waiting to get it all together before they came to Christ. But it says in the Bible that He loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved us!That love, as we start to embrace that love, and learn about that love, it makes our hearts malleable towards Him. It’s the same with our children.
We must first point our children, as we’re seeking to mold them, and to bend them, and not break them, we must first point them to God. The wonder of His creation, His majesty, all of His attributes… I’ve recommended to you before A. W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” and I commend it to you once again. Introduce your kids to the God of the universe after you’ve dealt with your own need for him.
Just love on your kids!
When my boys put this beetle into that chamber, the whole point is to make it moist so that it can move. The best way for our kids to want to respond to our bending is that they know how loved they are by God, how wonderfully he has planned a life for them, given them hope of salvation through the gift of His son, and placed him, this child, in your family, and how much you love them. It is the light of that love that we can bend them.
In the Bible we are commended not to exasperate our kids. That happens when we are just on them all the time without engaging in a conversation. It’s easier to exasperate because exasperation doesn’t take any time at all. It doesn’t take any self-control. It doesn’t take any patience. It doesn’t take any wisdom or insight. It’s just as responding in our frustration. It’s really easy to exasperate.
Engagement takes time. It means that right when we want to explode we exhale and we get a hold of ourselves. We do what we want them to do. We allow the spirit of the Holy, Mighty God to come and grant us patience, and wisdom, and insight. Let us not exasperate our children. Let’s engage, especially with “That kid”.
Rules without relationship lead to breaking. When you are just going to insist on them doing x, y, and z without having a relationship… Look, it’s just like that the key to our relationship with God. It’s not that we have to obey Him, it’s that we get to. We get to this place when we understand the love that He’s given in His son’s dying on the cross to pay a sin penalty that we can never pay. The more that we know this truth, the more than we accept that love, and embrace that love, the more love we have to give to others.
I have a policy that now that I have four out of the house anytime any of those four call, I’m answering the phone. I don’t care what time of night it is or what time of the morning it is.
- Demands without discipleship make for breaking. Let’s not just demand that our children do what we want them to do. I know that early on as a mom, the number one thing I wanted was for my kids to make me look good. I am pretty confident that I am not the only one who has had that as a priority.But I am so grateful to be liberated from that one. My priority for my children now is that they would be disciples of Jesus Christ. That in everything they do and say He will receive all of the glory. That they would grow their sanctification in him every single day. That takes discipleship!
Do you see the trend here? Exasperation, rules, and demands don’t take any time. They’re quick, and they are easy, and they are a result of our impatience and our frustration. But engagement, relationship, and discipleship are the three things, through love, that make our kids moldable and helps us not break their little hearts. Not break their little wills, but bend them.
Look, mom, if you have been given the trust of a “That Child” in your house, I want to tell you boldly and with great confidence today, your God does not need the will of “That Child” broken. This world needs more strong-willed women and men of God who will stand boldly on the truth of Jesus Christ. We just need to make sure that their will is not broken but bent to the things of God. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He knows that one of the strengths of your “That Child” is their strong will. He seeks to steal it, to destroy it, to kill it.
It is our job, it is our joy, it is our opportunity, it is our delight to bend their will towards the things of God so that can use that strong will that He gave them to glorify Him and point others to Him. My friends, raising that child is difficult. It’s frustrating. It is also an incredible journey. Embrace it, don’t fight it.
“I’m a little worried that Johnny hasn’t accepted Christ yet.” My friend crossed her legs and switched the baby to the other side. “I accepted Jesus when I was four, I think, and I know I shouldn’t worry, but I do.”
I nodded, fully understanding that concern. I came to Christ later in life. I know that the Holy Spirit, not me, will lead my children to the Lord. I know that God loves my children, has a plan for them, and desires that they become part of His everlasting family.
I trust God with my children. I really do. And yet sometimes, well, maybe I don’t.
“Yes,” I say, “It’s hard not to wonder if I’m doing enough, or if I’m doing it right! I wonder sometimes if I’m talking to them about Jesus enough, or if maybe my own issues are getting in the way.”
It’s then that I have this thought: If I really trust God with my children, why do I always mentally wring my hands over whether they are/will be saved? Whether I’ve done enough? Yes, I love them and want what’s best for them. But so does God- even more so – and in HIM is the power of salvation!
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” – Psalm 37:3
Salvation is of the Lord
We know it’s true: Salvation is of the Lord. Only the Holy Spirit can change the hearts of our children. Not us. He calls us to diligently teach and train them in the ways of the Lord and to trust the results with Him.
Do we? Do you?
Fear-based parenting has no place in the life of a Christian. If we want our children’s faith to flourish, we should tend to our own, and regularly fall to our knees to pray for our kids.
Fear is NOT of the Lord
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
When God blessed us with our children and asked us to raise them for Him, fearful parenting was not on the work order.
- Fearful parenting wrings its hands, fretting and worrying.
- It is paralyzed by the “what-if’s” of life.
- It is unsettled and even panicked by the idea that it cannot control choices and outcomes.
- It makes fear-based decisions, betraying the fact that it doesn’t really trust God.
- It reels hard with every sin and sorrow life throws its way.
- It teeters on the edge of a works-based faith.
- It is no faith at all.
Don’t ask me how I know fear-based parenting so well.
Author and Perfector of Our Faith
God does not want us to parent out of fear. Instead, He calls us to faith-filled parenting, by the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to look to Jesus, whom Hebrews 12 calls “the author and perfector of our faith,” to finish the work He has begun in our children.
- Faith-filled parenting finds peace in the sovereignty of God.
- It acknowledges the hard realities of life AND the power of God.
- It rests in the fact that only the Holy Spirit can change hearts, watching for it with hope.
- It is empowered and equipped by Christ to diligently teach and train, surrendering the outcome to God.
- It lives on its knees, praying for the children’s salvation and faith.
- It lives out a walk of true faith in Christ.
Be diligent in your calling as a parent! Teach them to know and love the Lord. Run the race well. THEN rest in the knowledge that the results of your work are in God’s capable hands. Trust Him with their faith.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17
Teach it and preach it, friends, in word and in deed!
Lord, help us to parent Your children in faith, not fear. Grant us a great peace and confidence that You are working in their lives and that Your plans for them are good. Please equip and strengthen us for the work you have called us to, helping us always point our children to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.
I found myself reflecting, recently, on the immeasurable depths of God’s love. In 2006 I penned these thoughts in my journal. With a tender heart I gained new appreciation for the beautiful love the Father has for us, His wayward children. I hope these thoughts bless you as we begin our month-long look at this precious love.
It’s happening again.
I had just changed Ben. It had been a doozie. And with it packaged and disposed of, I just wanted to hold my little boy. I just wanted to remember back to when he was just a little wad, less than ten pounds. Back to when we would snuggle and nurse. Back to when sleep was elusive, but the midnight feeding was more precious even than rest. Back to when he lived on my breast or hip, when he totally depended on me, when I was his world.
That is no longer true. No, now he weighs twenty-five pounds and gaining. He loves to run and jump and play. He drinks from a cup, feeds himself and sleeps through the night. And I miss his dependency on me.
So as strange as it might sound, I am not too anxious for him to be out of diapers. I mean I am but I’m not. I am for the obvious reasons, but I’m not because I love talking with him in the process and hug that follows.
Just a couple of days ago, when I had finished changing him, I picked him up and turned out the light in the laundry room. I wanted to hug him, just to snuggle with him for a minute.
But he was squirming. “I want some orange juice,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied, “Lets just cuddle for a moment.” And I pulled him close.
But he wasn’t interested. He put both hands on my chest and said, “I want some orange juice!”
“In a minute, let’s just be quiet for a moment.”
Reluctantly, he put his head on my shoulder and then popped it back up. Thoughtfully he told me, “It’s in the ‘frigerator,” as if I did not know.
“I know,” I said as I slowly rocked him back and forth to the Mozart in the background. But he wasn’t falling for it. He was singularly focused on orange juice. He did not want to snuggle, didn’t appreciate my memories of his infancy, and couldn’t imagine the depth of my love for him. He just couldn’t. He didn’t even try.
Do You Get it?
As I stood there hurt by this realization, that my moment with my little boy, inhaling his scent, rubbing his head, enveloping his little body in my arms, was going to be interrupted by something as trivial as physical thirst and a desire for orange juice over a hug with me, I got it. Do you see it?
I am baby Benjamin. I want God to take care of my stinkies, but then I want to run off and play. I want Him to get me some OJ, without the hug. I want to tell Him exactly what I want and where He can find it, and I want Him to get it for me now. I don’t want to wait, not even to pause. I am not particularly interested in waiting even a little bit for Him to fulfill my request.
Snuggle? In the darkness? Couldn’t we do that later, like after He gets me the OJ? And the part about being quiet together…why? Listen to what? The dryer run? The birds sing? The train in the distance? His heart beat?
Yes, His heart beat.
I am convinced that far too often we know what we want, where it is and we know Who can get it for us. And we are more interested in getting it, than getting Him. We even sometimes rudely tell Him what He can do for us, as if He hasn’t already done enough. I mean after all, wasn’t the sacrifice of His Son enough? Forgiveness of sin, debt paid, mercy extended enough? But there’s so much more.
The gift of heaven.
Forever with Him.
And here is where we miss it. At least where I miss it. We want to put off those hugs with our heavenly Father until eternity. He wants to start now. But why wait? He wants to hold us in His arms and rock, just the two of us, He wants us to be so quiet that we can hear His heart beat as our head rests on His chest. But we put Him off, content for someday when He wants to get started today.
I had to sit Benjamin down on the island of the kitchen to retrieve his juice from the refrigerator, right where he said it was. And He was grateful- complete with a juicy ‘thank you’. But I had wanted to give Ben more than something, I had wanted to linger with him, just to be with him, unencumbered by any thing.
And so does my heavenly Father. He wants more from our relationship than to merely act as my personal cosmic genie, who grants my every wish or whim. He wants for me to be satisfied with just being with Him, resting in Him, trusting Him completely.
He wants me to be more interested in the love in His eyes than the gift in His hand.
He wants me to listen for and hear the beat of His heart and ultimately for our hearts to beat as one.
Does this all mean that He is uninterested in hearing about what I want or need? No, of course not. Just like I appreciate it when Benjamin, or any of my kids, makes me aware of their desires, God likes to hear from me too. That is the kind of relationship He wants, the kind of relationship where we are in constant communication about everything.
But just like I don’t mind knowing or even fulfilling (as appropriate) Benjamin’s desire for some OJ, I would hope that as he grows up and matures, he would come to appreciate our relationship more than stuff. So does my heavenly Father. All too often I am asking Him for things that I should have out grown, the “stuff”, instead of requesting the character qualities first exemplified in His Son, the One to whom I am to be conformed.
Still He Loves
Right now my husband Davis needs a job. We have bills to pay like everyone else. We need health insurance. We need to be putting money away for college. And the good news is that our heavenly Father knows all of that, even before we ask. He knows. In fact He knew all of this would go down and we would be here.
That we would bring our needs to Him is not calling His attention to them, but rather submitting them to His good and perfect will.
I know that what He wants from us now is that we would linger in His arms, head on His chest, listening for His heart. He wants us to relax and not panic knowing that He knows, cares and is in control. He wants us to focus on getting to know Him more intimately, to gaze into His eyes. Just love.
The orange juice will keep….
We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to dwell on the truth that what He wants, truly and verily, is that you would simply linger in His arms and listen for His heart. Be blessed!
I have seven great stories about the births of my kids. I love to tell these stories, just as I love to hear my mother tell about my arrival – including how her water broke, causing the doctor to fall in the hall! And we should retell birth stories.
Having seven kids wasn’t my plan- but that’s a discussion for a different day. I’m very grateful I have two sons and then three daughters and two boys at the end. It has just been a glorious ride and I’m very grateful to have each and every one. But let me tell you, every single birth story was different. Every single one of them was different!! None of them were even remotely the same.
The first one was Charles and his was a forced delivery. I sat, well actually I didn’t sit- and that was the problem. After birth with him I was confidant that I wasn’t doing that again because I didn’t think I’d sit on a hard surface ever again! Some of you know exactly what I mean…
Anyway, I went on to have Anderson the next year and he was almost an emergency C section because he was so large. The thought of a c-section motivated me to practically shoot him across the room (such a visual there, right?!).
Ann, our first daughter, had a very peaceful delivery – it snowed on the day she was born and she smiled almost immediately.
Molly was the only one, my middle child, that I went into labor with and was actually born on her due date!
With Lily I was induced- but she was also very peaceful with a beautiful gentle spirit.
With Joseph I walked miles around the hospital floor trying to encourage him along. He took his time.
With Ben my delivery was pretty much textbook after a busy pregnancy.
All of the different circumstances and details surrounding their individual birth stories, I’ll never forget.
How hard I pushed.
How long I labored.
All the people there with me- My husband and the different doctors.
I will never forget.
And your children’s birth stories are stories worth retelling.
Your kids want to hear them!
(Or their gotcha day. I’ve had several friends who had the blessing of adoption across the ocean, and they love to retell all of us back home. Every single detail of God’s clear provision, as they went across the pond or maybe just around the corner to a hospital.)
We’re blessed by the child that God had chosen for us from the dawn of creation, to be our son or daughter.
And if you haven’t retold them lately, tell them their birth story!
All the details.
How you counted their fingers and toes.
How they cried.
If they had hair.
Who you thought they looked like.
There is just something about hearing your birth (or gotcha) story recounted that makes you feel special.
The circumstances of your birth story, your Heavenly Father knows too. And just like a new father who holds his child for the first time, He had plans for you.
His plan is to work in and through you.
He remembers that day.
The commitment you made to follow and trust Him.
How child-like your faith was when you said quietly in your spirit ” I surrender all this to Jesus.”
How innocent you were about the challenges you would face.
He remembers everything about that special day.
We need to recall where we came from and what He did for us when He cleaned us up.
This will help to keep us humble.
It’s important to admit how much we needed Him then.
And how much we need Him now.
I want to encourage you to tell your kids their physical birth story, but don’t stop there- talk to them about the day you were born spiritually. And if they have given their life to Christ- talk about the day they were born spiritually.
In His Grace-
“Look. At. Me.”
How many times have you said that today?
We say that all the time as moms.
Often when we say it to our kids, we’re flustered or frustrated and we say “Look at Me! Pay attention!”
When I want my kids to look at me it’s because I have something REALLY important and serious I want to convey to them and I want to make sure that I have their total attention.
With no distractions. I want them to tune everything else out, and look at me.
I want them to look at me because I feel like when they’re looking at me- I’ve got their heart.
I feel like I can tell if they’re really listening when they are looking at me. But I can’t tell, If I don’t have their eyes on me.
And I want to tell you a secret… I now have four out of the house and only three at home. But a mama’s ear can tell when they’re not looking at you.
When they are distracted…
Even if they are on the phone! I sometimes catch myself saying “Look–are you listening?” because I can’t actually tell if they are looking. But I can usually hear it.
That practice of imploring your children to really look at you and listen is something that we establish when they’re home, so that when it is the phone call or even Facetime, we still have the privilege of asking them to look at us.
But you know what?
Lift your eyes up.
See when I get distracted it’s because I’m not lifting my eyes to Him.
I’ve forgotten about Him, who alone, sits on the throne.
I’ve become distracted by the things of this world that just don’t matter.
I have let my eyes and mind get distracted.
And I have to admit…
Sometimes, like you, my kids are actually looking at me when I’d really rather they were not watching.
Like sometimes when I may be scrolling through the internet for a few more moments than I need to be.
Or maybe I’m watching a television show that I don’t need to be.
Or maybe at the checkout I’m looking at all the headlines in the rag magazines by the checkout and I don’t need to be.
Or maybe I’m even in the middle of a bad habit that I hope nobody else notices.
And those are the times when unfortunately, I had my kids’ full attention.
Just like you, our Heavenly Father whispers in those moments “Honey, look at Me, Look at Me!”
The key to overcoming those distractions, the key to overcoming those terrible habits that we find ourselves in (because we’re caught up in a sinful world) is to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.
To focus on our heavenly home and to continually be looking to Him.
Today, I bet you’ve said “Look at me”. While you were saying it to one of your little ones, did you perhaps hear God whisper to you “Look at Me”?
See when we look at Him, all of our stuff, even the things that seem so huge, pale in comparison to the sovereign King who sits on the throne.
I want to invite you to look at Him, especially when we’re so incredibly focused on our kids focusing on us- I think we can say that with more honesty when we make sure that we’re looking at Him.
I remember when we would go to Poppy’s house when we were first married and we would go over and paint the barn or bury a cat or plant a rose bush for Poppy. And on Saturday morning when we would get there I wouldn’t see Poppy reading his King James Bible, but I would see his King James Bible, open on the table as evidence, of where he’d been that morning before we even arrived.
I have a question for you…. When do you want your kids to look at you? What is it you want them to see you doing?
Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1
I have taken a few weeks to decompress from my trip to Kenya. I’m sure you can understand the importance of exhaling upon returning from a trip half-way around the world. Your patience with this follow-up post has been appreciated.
At one of the meetings in preparation for the mission, a leader encouraged us to ‘not have any expectations.’ It was actually the first thing he said after introducing himself as the new point man for our trip. Having done a fair amount of international travel, including several mission trips, I thought it was good advice. However, I didn’t really think about it much. Besides, the only expectation I had was that I was going to have time to bond with my daughter Molly.
You see, I hadn’t signed up for the trip. I had signed up to go with Molly. I hadn’t really cared where we went, just that we went together. I had gone with my oldest daughter, Anne, to China. Now it was time to go on a mission with Molly. She had originally wanted to go to India, and we tried to find a mission trip to that country, but our efforts had failed. So we were going together to Kenya.
We signed up, turned in our paperwork, got our shots and meds, attended meetings, planned, shopped, and packed. Oh and we prayed. I prayed for the other members of the group—none of whom I knew. Mainly I prayed for my time with Molly—that God would show off to her, that we would grow closer to each other and to God. Basically I prayed that this would be a bonding time for us as we approached her senior year.
Early on Thursday, July 30 Molly and I did our final pack and prepared ourselves for the 17 hours of travel we faced. We prepared snacks, sandwiches, and activities for the long plane rides. Once in the car, still in the driveway, Davis helped us think through everything we had packed to help us make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. Passports? Check. Medicines? Check. Journals? Check. And on down the list—it seemed we had everything.
We set out for the airport full of excitement and yes, expectations. We laughed and anticipated our time together in Kenya. Davis assured us that he would be praying for us and that he was already looking forward to our return and all the stories we would have to share. When we arrived at the airport, he prayed for us before helping us to unload our bags, saying final goodbyes, and heading back to the house to start his busy day.
Molly and I were the first to arrive at the airport. We sat and waited for the rest of the team giddy with excitement. We took pictures and posted them on Facebook: “Here we go!” As the team members arrived, introductions were made. I was so glad for Molly and the other six students to have this experience together. More laughter and anxious tears. And more prayers.
Finally we all got into the line to check in. Apparently the reservations were made at different times as the tickets were batched. It was a little crazy at first. Although Molly and I have traveled extensively, most of the students hadn’t. Molly and I weren’t in the same group, no problem. I checked in fine and printed out my boarding passes. Molly was having trouble with the check in and had to see an agent.
This is the part where the room started spinning: Molly was being told that she could not go to Kenya because her passport only had four months left on it. What? She had been issued a Visa for Kenya, this doesn’t make sense. One of the leaders was shaking his head, “He’s right. She needs at least 6 months on her passport.”
We spoke with an airline agent. He said that there wasn’t anything he could do. The airline had programed the ticket issuance based on the date on the passport and the country destination. There was no way to override it. Molly’s laughter fell silent, now tears were falling. She sat down in defeat with the other students who were holding their boarding passes.
The three leaders for the mission took me aside and offered a solution. Apparently there is an express passport office in Atlanta. One of the them volunteered to stay back with Molly suggesting that Davis take Molly that day or the next to Atlanta, get an express passport overnight and then the two of them would join us a couple of days later. I pulled Molly aside and asked her what she wanted to do. With tears dripping off her chin she said, “I want to go to Kenya.”
Okay, then. With that I called Davis who was almost home. I told him the problem and the possible solution. Additionally I communicated Molly’s desire to try and make this work. He agreed to the plan and headed back to the terminal. Unfortunately, the clock hadn’t stood still for all of this. Time was marching on and the team had to get through security and to our gate so we could board the plane for the first leg of our journey.
I had only a few moments to talk with Molly, say I was looking forward to seeing her in a couple of days, before I had to let her go and wait for Davis. I couldn’t wait to see his arrival. The other team leader waited for Davis with Molly after I left.
On the other side of security, I couldn’t talk. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? With my mind racing I sat at the gate trying to make sense of it all. We boarded the first leg of the trip to Detroit. No one knew what to say and I was speechless, but hopeful.
In Detroit the remaining two leaders let me know that things weren’t looking good. Even if Davis and Molly were successful in getting her an express passport, they were having problems finding flights. The earliest ones wouldn’t get them to Nairobi until Thursday with only 3 days left in the trip. A decision had to be made and we made it. Molly would not be joining me.
After making the decision, I walked and walked in a circle around a moving sidewalk at the airport. The same questions that had accosted me in the Charlotte airport were stalking me in Detroit. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen?
But it got worse. I started being overcome with tragic thoughts, dark thoughts. Plane crashes, terrorist attacks, illness, car accidents all went through my mind, I couldn’t breathe and I started to panic. I texted Davis and told him how my mind was under attack. He prayed for me, which didn’t immediately calm me, but it did begin to.
Join me next Monday for Part 2 of Reflecting on Kenya