I work as a Para-educator teaching children to read, and we do something called a reading record where we listen to a child read a few pages of a book, and we mark all of the words that they miss. I have a second grader who I have worked with for two years, whose name is Calvin. He is a cute little blond boy with a round face and crooked teeth.
So one day I was doing a reading record on Calvin and he mispronounced the name Jose’. He said “Josie.” So I marked it wrong. Calvin stopped and asked “Why did you mark that wrong?” So I told him, “In Spanish the J is pronounce like an H.” Calvin answered, “I don’t want to speak Spanish, I want to speak English and I read it the right way in English!” He started crying. He took off his little glasses and was trying to wipe away all of his tears. “Calvin, why are you crying, it’s OK to miss a few words, nothing is going to happen because of this test. You don’t have to be perfect.” I told him. He said “But I want to be perfect.” I said “But Calvin no one is perfect, that’s impossible. Do you know that adults don’t know all the words? Did you know that when I’m reading, I come to words that I don’t know, and I have to learn new words?” His eyes got big, and he said, “Adults don’t know all the words?” and I said “No, No one ever learns all the words, we are always still learning, no one is perfect.” He sniffed, wiped his eyes, put his little glasses back on, and started reading again.
Somehow, at some point, Calvin came to believe the lie, that in order for him to be acceptable or “enough”, he had to know all the words. For him to have value, for him to be “good enough”, he had to get everything right. And we as Christians, can unconsciously believe this same lie, that in order for us to be acceptable, valuable, or “enough”, we have to get it all right. We have to measure up. We know cognitively, that we are “saved by grace”, but we often live as if God is happy with us when we get things right, and disappointed in us when we don’t get it right. We live as if perfection is possible, and that if we could only achieve it, we would be acceptable.
In the following blog I want to offer just a couple of suggestions that might be helpful as you take on the task of leading children into a daily dependent walk with God. I will post the first 3 points today and the last 3 points some other time.
We need to do our own inner work.
The main thing that you bring to the children that you lead, is the person that you are becoming. The person that you are, is what will be reproduced. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “more is caught than taught”. So it’s important that we do our own heart work. We can’t give children something that we don’t have ourselves. We need to know that our value comes from God’s unconditional love for us, not from the things that we do, or from the things that we have, or from what others think of us. Our value is a gift from God, it can’t be earned, and it can’t be taken away. We are at all times loved and accepted by God. When we are secure in Christ, our hearts are full, and we have a storehouse of resources to pour into the hearts of those around us.
We must find our own value in God
A fullness and security in Christ begins with knowing our identity in Christ. What I mean by that, is that our value comes from God’s unconditional love for us, not from the things that we do, not from the things that we have, and not from what others think of us. Our value is a gift from God, it can’t be earned, and it can’t be taken away. We are at all times loved and accepted by God. We are never more or less valuable than anyone else, so there is no need for comparison. We are always “enough” in Christ, we don’t have to earn it or prove it, it’s just a fact. We don’t need any other dependencies to fill us. God meets our need for love. He meets our need for acceptance, He meets our need for security, safety, significance. He is the source of Life, and he completely fills us to over flowing, so that we can give out of our fullness.
So we need to ask ourselves “what am I looking to for my sense of worth, or my sense of being “enough”. And then we need to do the hard work of transferring all of our dependencies to Christ. We may look to relationships to meet our need for love, we may look to money and possessions for a sense of safety and security, we may look to our talents, success, career, positions, intelligence, or competence for our sense of value, or feeling like we are “enough.” We need to recognize these things and transfer our dependency to God, and allow Him to meet all of our needs, and to be the Source of Life that he is meant to be for us.
Your kids will grow if they see you growing and transforming. As you grow in security in Christ you will naturally become less judgmental, you will become offended less often, you will not be as easily angered, you will be able to apologize, and your children will be drawn to that.
The reason that we are easily offended is because we are insecure, and we need people to believe certain good things about us to feel like we are “enough,” and when they don’t it really hurts. But when that need is met in Christ, we know we are enough regardless of what others think, and we free others to have their own thoughts and opinions.
When we get angry it is more often than not, about our self-concept, rather than what someone actually did to us.
Sometimes when we are insecure, we bolster our security by comparing ourselves to other people (my beliefs are better than theirs, I’m more talented than they are, I’m not as bad as they are). Children learn by watching us. If they see comparison, judgment, pride, and insecurity in our lives, they pick up on it.
Children are watching how we take correction and failure. They are learning from us about judgment and comparison, pride and insecurity. And we are teaching them where to find their value. As you grow in your understanding of who you are in Christ, He will transform your character into his likeness, and children will catch that from you.
We must teach children that their value is in God
We need to be careful what we are leading our children to believe about their identity.
Sometimes, we can accidentally teach our children, that their worth is found in their achievements. We praise our kids for good report cards and for performing well in sports. What we praise, teaches them what makes them valuable. Ask yourself if you celebrate who your kids are, or what they have accomplished. As Joby Martin puts it, we are un-gospeling our children when we lead them to believe that their worth is found in their achievements.
We need to gospel our children by calling out their God given identity in Christ. We need to encourage them with the worth that is bestowed upon them as humans made in the image of God, not from the things they have done. We need to be very careful not to invite our children onto the treadmill of performance. We need to frequently remind our children, that their dignity and value are gifts that cannot be lost by a lack of talent, success or praise.