29 June 2009

Discovering Your Child's Design, Part 1

I just finished reading a really good book on parenting. It isn't one I'd heard of before (you can pick up some pretty amazing and interesting stuff at garage sales in an expat community), but the general idea of the book wasn't revolutionary or even new-to-me, but I appreciated the reminder, once again.

The first time I heard some of these ideas was at Brendan's baby shower, before he actually arrived, nearly 14 years ago. The devotional was given by a dear friend and fellow missionary, a lady whom I admire greatly and for whom I am so thankful. She challenged all of us, but especially me, that our job as parents is to train up a child in the way that he should go... and that isn't necessarily the way I think he should go, but rather the way that God created him to be... if that makes sense. That was the beginning of a shattering of any illusion that I'd be able to find a perfect parenting formula and then simply follow that pattern with simple modifications for each child to find that... "Voilà! I've successfully raise godly kids!"

Parenting itself, as well as a recognition of all the times I blow it and fall so short of what I consider ideal (and that is so much less than what God expects) has shattered the any of those illusions that might have remained.

The book I've been reading, Discovering Your Child's Design, by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black, pursues further explanation and application of this same idea. Over the course of this next week or so, I'd like to share some excerpts from the book that I've particularly appreciated ~ and to hear some of your feedback, too.

We must see that God designed a unique personality and not an undefined hunk of clay to be shaped into what man wants... We must give up the idea of seeing children through rose-tinted glasses of: 1) What we want them to be; 2) What society expects of them; 3) Our measuring sticks; 4) Our categories, boxes, classifications, and groupings... Each child is designed and you can know something of that design.

...the heart is not a vague spiritual capacity tucked somewhere within us. It is the foundation of human personality from which all actions emerge. This heart has a shape, as design which can be described in great detail. In your child it can be described in enough detail to transform your understanding of who he or she is.

How glorious to realize that children are designed like jewels that bear the beauty of God intended from the very beginning of their creation. So does that mean we already have little doctors, plumbers, mathematicians, cabinet makers, and artists running around in our houses? Does that mean all we have to do now is feed and water these diminutive professionals to have themautomatically turn out to be whatever is already fixed in their makeup?

The answer is that God does not create doctors and plumbers. rather, He creates individuals who possess the gifts to become a doctor or a plumber. we, in turn, need to equip ourselves by acquiring the education and training necessary to become proficient in our designed areas. We are required to develop skills and acquire knowledge to match our gifts. Only after people have applied their God-given gifts towards their designed professions is it right to conclude that Godo has indeed given us those doctors and plumbers.

With this in mind, let us look at your child. If you have more than one child, keep in mind that each one is designed in a unique way. In this sinful world, we cannot actually see the designs of our children. Sometime, in a future kingdom, our spiritual sight will be restoreed. Then, as we look at our children as God designed them, we will be stunned to see what wondrous creations were running around our houses. Meanwhile, we do not have to proceed entirely by faith in this matter. There is much that you as a parent can do to be better informed about your child's design while you have the opportunity.

Evidence for your child's design is all about you....the real child begins to appear when you are able to get behind their actions to discover a common theme -- what we will call a motif.

A motif is a recurring salient element in a work of art. The first fact we discover here is that your child is a work of art. Physical appearance may or may not indicate outer beauty, but that is not especially important. Our real appearances are seen by Godo since He looks on the heart. Each child is created beautiful by God -- no matter what may ultimately happen to both exterior and inner beauty. Your child's beauty also has a salient element (a striking theme or an outstanding characteristic). This is further established by the next phrase of the definition.

A motif is a dominant idea or central theme. Your child is unique, like no other. His or her prominent qualities can be described and woven together to make up the essential characteristics (theme) of his or her life. These dominant qualities are authored by God. They embrace all the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological dimensions of our being.

A motif is a repeated design, an influence or stimulus prompting to action. Your child's design is not just a shape somewhere in the interior of the personality, but rather a motivation to action. It involves the heart, from which all actions emerge. The heart is the place of the will, the seat of intentionality. There is consistency to all that y our child does. Your child does certain things in ways that are unlike any other child.

...if you really want to see some of the God-given design of your child, you need to find a repeated theme that influences all of your child's actions and decisions.

I don't know about you, but I love watching and talking people (in general), and trying to figure out what makes the tick... it is even more exciting when the little people I'm watching are the special ones God has entrusted to me for this time... What a responsibility! What an opportunity! What a delight!

Material quoted from the chapter entitled "Tools for Your Use" in the book Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black.

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