It seemed a simple assignment. Define a word and use it in a sentence. A basic vocabulary exercise.
“So I have to redo it?” His cheeks flushed in frustration when I told him it wasn’t exactly correct.
I read the dictionary definition out loud. I tried to encourage him to an accurate understanding of the word’s meaning. My own frustration began to mount over his unwillingness to try. Finally he threw up his hands, declared the assignment stupid, and questioned why he had to do it. After all, he didn’t believe he would ever use the word and didn’t care about its definition.
The room grew extremely quiet. Siblings lowered their pencils and waited to see how I would respond to the blowup. I felt like having a frustrated outburst of my own, yet was acutely aware I had a captive audience.
Following a slow deep breath, I quietly explained how a job wasn’t worth doing unless it was done well. When a mistake is made, it should be corrected. Heads nodded agreement. All except my frustrated son.
I pointed out the importance of knowing the correct meaning of a word, and how to use it. I referred to the story we had read from his spelling curriculum the day prior, and how he’d asked me the meaning of the word. It hadn’t been used well in the story. I asked my attentive pupils, “Do you know there are people that are prejudice against us?”
prejudice – An adverse opinion or judgment formed beforehand or without full knowledge or complete examination of the facts. | A preconceived idea or preference : bias. | The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. | Irrational hatred or suspicion of a specific group, race, or religion. ~Websters II New College Dictionary
Questions suddenly arose from each of the children. We discussed what we had learned in history about slavery, early immigration, internment camps, and more. We discussed current events as reported by news media. Reports of ill treatment toward specific racial groups, and religious groups viewed with fear and suspicion.
“Is it really true people treat each other that way, and that someone doesn’t like us?” my daughter asked. Her innocent disbelieving eyes held mine.
I wanted to lie to my children. Protect them from the evils of the world. Tell them people are good and loving and trustworthy. I wanted to tell them we live in a world that is safe. But there is no such promise in scripture. In fact we are told we will face trials and persecution.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
The conversation with my children took many rabbit trails. A discussion applying biblical prophecy to current events led us to the promise of our saviors return.
“I can’t wait for Jesus to come back,” my daughter exclaimed with delight.
I smiled at her in agreement.
Looking over at my son, I noticed he was once again flushed with emotion. Tears began to stream down his cheeks.
“What about our friends,” he stammered out. “Those that don’t know Jesus? What will happen to them when He comes back?”
In his question, my own heart broke. I looked across the table and marveled. This was my child that often struggles with empathy. Yet in that moment, I saw in him a heart after God.
We held hands to pray. Oh first we rearranged our seats. Although my son wanted his friends to know Jesus, he did not want to hold his sisters hand to pray.
Teaching and training children is not a simple assignment. Just like defining a spelling word, it leads to unexpected places. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and react. When I take the time to respond, I often see my children grow. One beautiful baby step at a time.