There’s those moments….the ones where you’re trying to teach your children how to do life. When you are instructing them on how to be loving human beings. How to love God, love people. Those moments where you shake your head and wonder “are they getting it?”
Recently I had an interaction with another human being regarding two of my little human beings. These interactions do happen on a semi-regular basis, but most pass without much further thought. This particular interaction though, left me pondering, “How and when do people form opinions of us?” I was talking with this person about two of my kids getting involved and volunteering in the same venue that I do. The kids had both asked to do so and the idea was all their own. The conversation was focused on whether they were old enough to be in the volunteer position, and to what degree would they be trusted with carrying out responsibilities. The coordinator then said something that started this whole train of thought. He said something to the effect that because they are our kids, and he knows our (my husband and I’s) heart and work ethic, he would expect no less from our kids.
Honestly, this thought blew me away a bit. Please understand friends that I don’t intend this to sound self righteous. First, I was proud. Proud of our family, proud of my kids, and proud of myself. It would seem that our intention to love God, love people was being felt. I was proud of the kids for “getting it” and putting it into practice. My next thought was slightly terrifying. It was that our kids really are a reflection of ourselves. How they act, what they say, how they love (or don’t) IS in fact noticed. I think I am pretty successful at often stuffing that thought! Every so often though, it comes bubbling to the surface where I have to reconcile myself to it. As I continued to ponder this, I felt led to discuss this train of thought with my older kids.
My oldest just started her freshman year of high school. (Seriously, I’m not sure how that is actually possible). #2 is in seventh grade – smack in the middle of … middle school. My third is a fourth grader, who just hit double digits. I felt that they were all not only old enough to discuss this concept, but to understand just how deeply this can and will affect them now and in the future. I explained to them that now, while they are young, is a time where they shape their own character and how others view them. Some people already have cemented their views of my children, both directly and indirectly. There may be direct cases where they behaved a certain way and people mentally grouped them accordingly. Or, indirectly in that they are simply our kids. This could work both positively and negatively for them based on other’s views of their father and I.
Any time you are in a new situation, place, job, or group of people in general, you have a fresh start. In this introductory time, where you are all getting to know each other, it is just like having poured wet cement. As children, the grace period may last a little longer, but just like cement, once someone has formed an opinion about you and your character, it is almost impossible to change. Each new interaction and person you meet is another opportunity to cement something new. How do you want others to view your character? Do you want to be cemented in their minds as one who is trustworthy and honest? As one who loves God and loves people? Then you need to live your life accordingly. You can pretend for a while, but in time, true character always shines through.
Once cement has hardened, the imprint of whatever was placed when it was wet remains. It can be changed, but it is a difficult, arduous task that destroys the cement completely, and requires one to start over. This is possible, but it is difficult and time consuming. The work of God in our lives is very similar. By His grace we are saved. It is a gift He has freely given, whether we want to accept it or not. It’s a finished work that we cannot change no matter how much we deny it. Once we realize, or are taught this and accept what has already been done for us, is when we are able to let go and let God break and our old cement down. The character, choices, and decisions that we maybe wish weren’t embedded. We can allow Him to pour it fresh and then…we have the opportunity to change that spot forever.