Tuesday, October 26, 2010
This one's for the kids...and parents?
The second stage comes when you realize how well your parents know you as an individual. I’m not talking about how they know what to buy you for Christmas or that you only wear white crew cut Nike sox or even that you won’t eat cheese unless it is melted first. They know our tendencies, our weaknesses, and our strengths.
My mom is the best at this. When I was playing sports she knew that the only way to raise my level of competition was to tell me as it is. “You dribble the ball too much…Don’t let that little punk push you around…my Dad can run faster than that and he has a fake hip…that forward made you look like an eleven year old girl dressed in her Sunday best walking on her tiptoes because she doesn’t want to get her white nylons dirty.” You know, the standard pump up lines. To other onlookers this may have seemed cruel but it was always the best way to show me love. She knew that the constant pats on the back and “Great effort. You’ll get them next time…” didn’t work for me. Thanks mom!
There is a third stage that parents don’t even know about. It is the little things they say that kids remember years later and take encouragement from. My mom and dad had a phrase they used to say often, “Children are a blessing from the Lord.” It is hard to capture the way they say it on paper because there was always a bit of sarcasm in their voices as if they were trying to convince themselves the words they just said could actually be true. This phrase was usually said when I was being annoying. Like when I would bounce a basketball off the wall and shake the whole house or throw slippers at my mom when she was trying to watch football. Sometimes they would say it in the grocery store when I kept asking for the Wolverine action figure we just walked past or when I tried to convince them to buy frozen pizza for every meal.
I didn’t realize until this week the depth of truth contained in this phrase. To be honest, I have struggled teaching for the last couple of weeks. Not because I have no desire to do so or lack of subject matter. It was because of lack of results. It seemed like every week I got up front and taught a lesson that connected very well on a Middle School level but it just went in one ear and out the other of my students. I work at a church consisting mostly of “church kids”. These are the kids that have been in church their whole lives and who think their lives are right on track because they can quote scripture in a quiz team practice. These are kids just like me. And they frustrate the life out of me sometimes.
Last Wednesday I prepared a lesson out of John 3 about our need to be born again and I laid it out straight just like my mom used to do. I said, “Nicodemus was a man who thought he had everything figured out because he kept all the commandments, wore all the religious garb, and new the law backwards and forwards. But Jesus came along and said ‘All your traditions and empty sacrifices are worth nothing because you have no relationship with me. You need to be born again.’ Some of the students in this room are just like Nicodemus. You think your life is on the right track because you do all the good religious things your parents told you to do but you have never surrendered your life to Christ.”
The room was full of unbelieving stares. I had pretty much told them that some of them were headed for hell and didn’t know it. After the message, two boys came up to me; Greg and Andrew. Both of them live in the inner city and neither of them have a dad in their lives. They are the exact opposite of church kids. They know their lives are a mess and there is no reason to hide it. They both told me that they wanted to be born again. I had the unbelievable privilege of walking them both through the plan of salvation and leading them to Christ! As soon as they left that night I heard my mom’s words ringing in my ear…Children are a blessing from the Lord. Except this time there was no sarcasm. They were words of absolute truth with deep and rich encouragement for a struggling son. They truly were a blessing to my life.
Those two young men gave me more encouragement then they will probably ever know, but that would never have happened if my parents were not willing to speak biblical truth into my life. We never know if our words grab onto anything between one ear and the other. Sometime it feels like we are speaking to an empty room. Parents, speak truth to your kids. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Your words are not falling on empty ears; it just might take a while to sink in. Teachers, Children are a blessing for you too. They may seem like little aliens who inhabit the earth for the sole purpose of robbing you of all happiness but every once in a while you get a glimpse of their blessing in your life.
My parents had another phrase… “Walk it off.” They would use this one whenever I was hurt or when I was acting like I was hurt to get some sympathy. I just burned my tongue on some coffee that was as hot bacon cooked with napalm and need to put into practice what my parents taught me. So I’m going to go walk off this tongue situation. Thank you mom and dad for the encouragement this week and thanks for reading!