Somehow that line encapsulated everything the Lord had been trying to teach me me during the recent KidMin conference I attended. I hadn’t realized it, but I had unconsciously begun telling myself the false story that my own worth as a follower of Christ and as a children’s minister was based on the “success” of my ministry efforts and programs. Then came Saturday night.
Jon Acuff was the main speaker. He spoke for 40 minutes. I don’t remember anything he said. Well, except for one thing. Somewhere along the way, he made the observation that, “God will never be handcuffed by your failures – or unleashed by your successes.”
God will never be handcuffed by my failures?
He will never be unleashed by my success?!!
You mean, He’s not sitting on the edge of His seat up in Heaven, rooting me on because all of His plans depend on my success? (God: “Come on, Mikey! If you pull off this outreach program without a hitch, I can finally save everybody in Findlay!!! But if you mess it up…well, it's out of my hands…”)
So I began to realize (or, remember) that if I succeed, God can work. And even if I mess up royally, God can still work. He will still work. Even through my failures, God will work -- which was comforting, because at that point I was feeling like there had been a lot of failures in the previous few months.
Later that evening, Jason Gray came out to perform a few of his songs. One of them was entitled “Remind Me Who I Am.” I think I’d probably heard it before on the Christian radio, but never paid much attention to the lyrics. The chorus goes like this:
Tell me once again who I am to you, who I am to you.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to you, that I belong to you.
And there it was again! Just who am I to God? Is His love toward me only based I what I can “produce” for Him? Will He only work in my life and ministry when I am “successful”? Or does He love me regardless? Will He continue to work even in the midst of my spectacular and glorious “failures” because I am His child?
Now, I hope you are all encouraged by how God spoke to me, but I can’t leave it there. How about an application for our KidzTown volunteers and parents? (That sounds like a great idea, Mike! How about it?)
What are the stories we are telling our children about themselves?
I would pray that they are the same stories that God is telling about them and about us -- the story that I had to be reminded of myself a few weeks ago. Not stories of guilt, unrealistic expectations, or love that is only given when they perform appropriately, but stories of God’s grace. Stories of their true worth which springs only from their identity as a special creation made in God’s very own image. Stories of how God loves them so much – despite their failures and stubbornness – that He sent His own Son to die so that they might live. And when we tell our children and students the true stories about who God is and who they are to Him, they begin to grow into those stories. They begin to live up to the stories they hear about themselves – and God is set free to work powerfully through their lives.
So I would like to challenge those of you who are teachers to consider spending a few moments each Sunday speaking a blessing to each of your students by name and reminding them of the true story of who they are in God’s eyes. (For example, “Frodo, God loves you!” or “Gandalf, you are made in the image of God!”) Our K-5 curriculum, Tru, includes a section of blessing at the end of each lesson which is perfect for this, although preschool teachers can certainly speak a blessing over their children as well. Parents, I would encourage you to do the same regularly with your kids at home. (Obviously, don’t call them “Frodo” or “Gandalf” unless those are their names, though!) When a child -- or an adult, for that matter -- begins to realize who he or she really is in the eyes of God it is a powerful thing!
Oh, and by the way: You are the hands and feet of Jesus to so many kids and families in our community! You will never know this side of Heaven how many lives you have changed by your loving dedication and service! You guys rock!