Have you ever felt thought that you like your own children but not other people's children? I am sure you have at some point unless you are one of those people that naturally see ALL children as a gift. If so, I completely respect you. We should all be that way. But for those who just simply don't like other people's children or connect with them, I have been there. Thankfully I didn't stay there, but I do remember being there.
You know how it is. Other people's children just don't seem the same as your own. They aren't as smart. They aren't as funny. And they certainly aren't as cute. There have been times a child that isn't mine can do the same thing my child would do but because it was someone else's child it bothered me! I didn't enjoy or tolerate those "other children".
Then, God changed my heart when I read a book called Too Small To Ignore...Why Children are the Next Big Thing by Dr. Wes Stafford, CEO of Compassion International. Specifically, I learned that "every encounter with a child is divine." This was a radical shift for me that I believe was a divine encounter with this child of God. (Me).
When I heard Wes talk about how the Lord allows us the privilege of time with His children to lead and influence either for good or bad, I began to see those encounters as an opportunity. When my heart was open to see that my time with other children is a chance to shape the heart and life of God's people, I changed dramatically. I embraced the Lord's heart for ALL children, I began to actually like other people's children.
The Lord says firmly in Mark 10:14, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them." If that is how the Lord sees them then that is how I want to see them.
The transformation has taken time for me to be more like Christ, but since my perspective has changed, I have been completely blessed by other people's children. They are smart. They are funny. And they are actually cute...most of the time. Ha! And since I don't want you to miss out on this amazing experience, I have written three thoughts that have helped me through this journey.
1. Insight - Children are extremely valuable. They are not only made by God but they are who God uses to carry out His purposes now and in the future. The Lord makes people so His kingdom will be built! Our view of these little people and teens has to have the insight to see where they came from and why they are here.
Moreover, our moments with them are impressionable. Highly impressionable. Every moment and encounter we have with a child should count towards the making of this person. Whether it is acknowlegding other children when they are standing beside their mother when I am talking to a friend, or coming into my home to play, or passing as a neighbor, or needing something at church, we must have the insight to see that the time and love invested in a child is divine and therefore, eternal.
2. Ownership - We are all responsible for the children in our circle of life. We must allow our hearts to have ownership of them. We have been given leadership over them because of age and position. All authority comes from God, meaning that He decided the layout of how things trickle down in headship, so the children in my life are for me to care for with ownership. We are appointed leaders to children. They are all ours. And when something is our own we care for it as such.
A practical look at this view is to think to how we feel when riding in someone else's car. We don't really care as much about the details or needs. We don't appreciate the car because we don't have personal ownership in it. We have no investment in it. We don't think about it or care. The car is simply there and doing what it does. This is a natural response to something that isn't our own. But we must own the leadership God has given to us with children. Otherwise, we just see them as being there doing what they do. But this should not be. For children, we must own them. We must care about their details and their needs.
3. Understanding - I can recall telling someone that because we were youth pastors I wasn't sure how to relate to children. I was used to talking to teens about parental respect, boyfriends, temptations etc. but to talk to a 4 yr old was foreign to me. I may have well spoken Japanese when I came across a little one. Yes, I made the worst babysitter growing up. It was rough. I did not know what I was doing even though I took a babysitting class. I just didn't understand children. Which is bizarre to me because I used to be a child.
Anyway, understanding how children think and act whether it be by age or personlity, makes a tremendous difference in our interaction with them. If we know how they think, feel, and do then we can get into their world. When we know where they have come from and what experiences they have had, we can relate to them. All of this and more can be learned by taking time with them. Ask questions. Listen well. Do life with them. When we know them, it is easier to embrace them.
So those are my three main thoughts on how I have learned to like, even love, other people's children. They make the acronym "IOU" if you want to remember this post when the next little darling crosses your path and you start to slip into annoyance.
As we have the insight to value them, we truly do owe it to children to lead with the authority God has given to us in understanding their world. Blessings to you as you start to enjoy some of the most amazing people on earth!
(Photo credit to my fun nephew Weston!)