When I was young, I went to a Christian grade school. This program was really big into publicizing each student’s level of achievement. We had “star charts” on a corkboard within our little cubicle-style desks displayed in plain view for any passerby. In you got a B or above on a test, you would get a small star on your chart next to that subject. If you scored 100% on a test, you’d get a BIG gold star. Anything less, you got an understated green dot on your chart, which meant, “Way to pass, but don’t get too excited about your bald little dot.”
Thus began my relationship with performance.
Though my parents weren’t ones to ever pressure me with school work or activities, I quickly learned to love achieving. I became one of the best students who had tons of “big” stars and at the end of the school year walked home with an armful of awards. I would study hard so I could be best. And if I underperformed on a test, I’d pretty much fall apart. It wasn’t until those memories came to mind this year that I started thinking about all of the kids that got dots and who didn’t walk home with any awards.
I’m sure the people that ran this school had good intentions. Goal-setting and public-reward programs certainly pervaded the 1980s, and don’t get me wrong, it’s good to challenge yourself and be rewarded for your efforts. But, I’m convinced that there are two dangerous roots called INFERIORITY and INSECURITY that can start growing in us even as little children. They gain power when our personal value is based on the episodes of how well—or not so well—we measure up against some set of societal standards.
Why did I even start thinking about all of this? Well, this girl who worked hard to get good grades that reinforced “worth” has a 7-year-old son with autism who does not yet speak and rarely gets “stellar” reports.
With reports and evaluations I’ve gotten from his therapy center or school that detailed all the areas of deficiency, I have felt like I had myself failed. And yet, no amount of my hard work or performance could control his ability to learn. So, I had to look at my beautiful little boy, and ask myself some real questions about a person’s value, worth and destiny.
At the same time, God was showing me who He says I am. He was revealing to me what I can do because of what Christ did—completely apart from what I can prove in my own power. This is grace. Since then, God has surprised me with how He can be trusted with our gaps. Josiah has taught me that not only is God a good gift giver, but He is also a gap filler.
As God’s child, I am being liberated by receiving what He says about me. As a parent, I am speaking and exuding value and confidence into my child more intentionally, and the smile on his face shows me he is receiving what I say about him. The movie “The Help” inspired me with a simple blessing that I speak over my son many mornings to remind him of who he IS. It goes like this…
“Josiah, you are special. You are kind. You are important. You are smart. You are 100 percent loved by Jesus, by Mommy, by Daddy. And, remember, the word of the Lord is near you; it is even in your mouth and it is in your heart (Rom. 10:8).”
This is one way our Heavenly Father models to us how to raise amazing kids—it starts by telling them that they automatically have a gold star simply because they belong to you. And then, that child can become all that you say he or she already is. Does your child need to hear that? Do you?
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us to be holy and without fault in his eyes…because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” Ephesians 1:4, 11