One of the best, but most difficult things I’ve ever done as a parent and as a teacher was to have my daughter as a student in my public school classroom.
“Best” because the unusual arrangement gave me an opportunity to view my daughter through fresh eyes and understand her world a little better. “Most difficult” because I had to learn how to separate being a mother to my daughter from being a missionary and minister to those who inhabited her world. Those who were kind to her and those who weren’t, those she got along with and those she didn’t, they were ALL my district and God-given responsibility.
Over the course of those two precious years, I learned much about seeing people like Jesus sees them, giving God room to do what only He can, and loving people even when you don’t particularly like them.
Ready? It’s confession time.
- Seeing people like Jesus sees them.
Until my daughter became my student, I tended to see those with whom she interacted through her eyes, not God’s. Her sense of well-being my first priority, I accepted her character assessments of people and her side of most stories without question, feeling her hurt and adopting her disappointment as my own. I forgot her perspective was limited. I forgot she could be wrong.
I didn’t realize it at the time, and if you’d confronted me about it, I probably would have argued with you or told you it was just part of being a mom. It is, I guess, but it’s a part moms must learn to control if we want to be effective ambassadors for Christ.
Our children are important, but they are our charges, not our gods. If we claim to be followers of Christ, we have to make His first priority, public recognition of God’s divine perfection (John 17:4), our own. As God’s sending His son to die on the cross for a traitor race so they might be forgiven and adopted as His children is the greatest display of that divine perfection, we must learn to live our lives in a way that highlights that miracle. The first step is to see the spiritual need in those around us and allow ourselves to be viscerally moved by it as Jesus was (Matt. 9:36), wanting for them what we ourselves have received from God. Redemption. New life. Freedom.
How did I come around to this perspective? Easy. People surprised me. As my daughter’s teacher, I had the chance to interact with people I’d only heard of or watched from afar. Supposedly cold, prideful, and mean people did kind things in my presence, and supposedly kind people did cold, prideful, and mean things.
Humanity became a lukewarm mess before my very eyes, and I was able to zoom out far enough to see for myself what the Bible says is true. Although we ALL have admirable qualities, being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), we have also ALL fallen short of His glory, or divine perfection (Rom. 3:23). We are ALL harassed by our sin, helpless to save or change ourselves. We are ALL in desperate need of a Savior.
Once I not only knew, but saw this for myself, I began to process people’s words, attitudes, and actions differently. They seemed less personal, somehow. I realized just as victims of whooping cough can’t help coughing, people infected by sin can’t help sinning. It’s as simple as that. Instead of blaming and judging, I started to feel sorry for people when the symptoms of their condition showed, even when those symptoms made life more difficult for me and/or my daughter, and I tried to help her adopt the same perspective while allowing her to have her own feelings, offering comfort, and stepping in when needed (more on that in Part 3).
The result? My heart opened toward those I didn’t even realize I’d locked out, and my evangelistic efforts became more wide-spread and intentional.
Once I quit subconsciously reinforcing her fears, misconceptions, and survivalist behavior, my daughter began to take the words and actions of others a little less personally and to forgive much more quickly, even if she did remain—understandably so—a little skeptical of others.
To be continued…