I don’t know about you, but my favorite cookie is an Oreo that has been soaking in milk for so long that it is mushy and gushy and oh-so delish. I love it when I forget momentarily about my Oreo (which doesn’t often happen because what sane person forgets about an Oreo?), and it begins to dissolve into the milk so much that I have to fish it out with a spoon. Yummmmmy. Our lives are filled with favorites…favorite cookies, favorite songs, favorite books, favorite people…And it feels good to have our favorite things around us, doesn’t it? We call these things our comforts, and yet we are not called to a life of comfort. Sigh.
Bottom Line: Respect Others Because They Are Important to Jesus
Bible Verse: Show proper respect to everyone. 1 Peter 2:17a
Sunday was our last lesson studying RESPECT in the Skate Park. We went back to James for his strong black coffee wisdom on showing favoritism. This subject makes me uncomfortable because it speaks to me. Loudly. And it speaks to our children, too. They long for lunchtime so they can sit with their favorite friend. They groan when their teachers assign partners because they want to choose the person they like best. They race to recess because…well, because it’s recess.
Our lesson began by forcing children to choose favorites by looking at the outside. First, they had to share who they would choose for their basketball team, Lindsey or Travis. Who would you choose?
Would you have guessed that Lindsey is actually our basketball superstar? Next they had to share who they would choose for their math study partner, nerd-girl Kenzie or cool-guy Elias. Who would you want them to choose?
Cool dude Elias was our math expert! The truth is, we make judgements based on a person’s outside. Based on their clothes and their hair, their words and their actions. But James tells us this in 2:1: “My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same.” It’s a simple cause and effect. You believe in Jesus, therefore you treat everyone the same. Period. Hmmm…so I shouldn’t treat the cashier I see at Wal-Mart each week any differently than I would treat the President of the United States (political issues aside)? I shouldn’t treat the homeless man on the corner holding his sign any differently than I would my best friend? Can it be that simple?
When we broke into our small groups to apply James’ advice, we did an activity called On the Inside. Each group was given a “person” they might see at school. This person was actually a box labeled with descriptive words like “mean” or “weird” or “annoying”. Every child walked up the person and squirted silly string in his face, symbolizing the meanness we often throw at people. Many of them were hesitant to do it! Pure sweetness and I love it. But, in the end the silly string made it ok. Anything that makes a mess is gloriously fun when you are 5. Or 35.
When we were all out of insults (aka silly string), our poor people were just a mess! We looked at them and felt sad and talked about how terrible they must feel to be covered in hurt.
So we opened our people up and peeked inside. And what we found was proof that our outsides do not reveal our inner truths. Well, we literally found balloons…representing inner truth! The balloons declared each of these people “Child of God”, “Important to God”, “Loved by Jesus”, and “God’s Masterpiece”. It was a joyful experience! And then…I love children because their hearts are so much purer than mine…some of the kids started cleaning up the silly string. They were pulling it off of the boxes as if they just couldn’t stand it being there any longer. It was a special moment (despite the fact that some of them started making silly string balls and throwing them – hey, they are children after all!) and gave us the opportunity to talk about how we can “clean up” the messes we make when we hurt others. They said such smart things. Moments like this…I love my job.
So, a reflection. I think if we are honest with ourselves as parents, we might realize that we encourage our children to show favorites. We encourage our children to choose the “right” friends, don’t we? Believe me, I am not placing judgement…I am sharing my personal truth. We do it with good intentions. We want our children surrounded by good friends so they are encouraged to make good choices and be good people. Is that so wrong? Let me invite you to see this at its ugliest…in me. I shudder to reveal it, but it’s truth.
On the first day of school this year, when I walked my kindergartener and my fourth grader into their new school auditorium, full to bursting with children of all sorts, I found myself unintentionally perusing the crowd and mentally selecting good potential friends for my kids. You know, the friends who looked like them. The ones with clean clothes and new backpacks and well-brushed hair, quietly waiting for the day to begin with their hands folded nicely in their laps. This went on for a bit before I even realized what dark path my thoughts had taken. And it hit me hard. With my words, I encourage my children to be friends with everyone, but it is superficial encouragement. What I mean is this: Be NICE to everyone, but choose the RIGHT friends. Ugh. My heart is a work in progress, and if anyone needs James right now it is me.
“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in worn-out clothes also comes in. Would you show special attention to the one who is wearing fine clothes? Would you say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you’? Would you say to the poor person, ‘You stand there’? Or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet’? If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? Aren’t you like judges who have evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4
Yes James, my thoughts are evil. Thank you for your words and thank you for these children who illustrate your truth in big ways.
Reverse Musical Chairs – Include Everyone!
Parents, if we let them, our children can change us. And then…they can change the world. I believe it with my whole heart. Do you?