My four-year-old is a decisive child.
Also known as stubborn.
“Mommy?” She appeared in the bathroom doorway, pushing matted hair out of her face and rubbing squinted eyes.
“Good morning, sweetheart.” I love the first greeting of the day when my children patter out of bed and seek me out. Don’t you? My heart swells with fresh love for these little people, for another chance to be their mom. It’s a magical moment.
“Can I have a sucker?”
And just like that, the magic farts.
“No, beanie, we don’t eat suckers for breakfast.” I flashed my gentlest smile. She didn’t buy it.
“But I want a SUCKER! I waaaaaant one!!” She stomped her feet on the hallway carpet, thrashed her little body to the floor and pounded it with her fists. “Waaaahh!”
I’m sorry, did I call this a good morning?
Sometimes my daughter’s stubbornness drives me batty. Yet my job as her mom is to harness that quality for good. Why? Because God sees beneath her misbehavior to the potential within. I was reminded of this last week while reading in the book of Acts.
At the start of chapter 9, Saul—later known as the apostle Paul, you know, the guy who wrote half the New Testament—was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (verse 1). He got a commission from the Jewish high priest to persecute any Jesus followers he could find in the city of Damascus. But on his way there, Jesus interrupted Saul’s cranky plan and struck him blind for three days. Meanwhile, the Lord sent a disciple named Ananias to “place his hands on [Saul] and restore his sight” (verse 11).
Imagine if you were Ananias at this point. Jesus is asking this poor guy to confront the most notorious enemy of the Christian faith. Scary? Um, yeah. What if the whole plan backfired and Ananias was held prisoner, or worse? Yet he chose to trust and obey Jesus.
“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kinds and before the people of Israel’” (Acts 9:15).
Why Saul? This guy was bad news. He hated Christians! Yet when God intervened, Saul the notorious persecutor became known as Paul, the greatest Christian evangelist in the history of the church.
God chose him.
God transformed him.
See, Saul was zealous for a cause. Even though he was using this zeal for evil, Jesus knew it could be channeled for godly purposes. He saw the potential to use Saul’s “bad” traits for good. And the same is true of our children.
Is your child bossy?
Those are leadership qualities.
Call it compassionate and caring.
Discerning and introspective.
Passionate. Independent thinker.
What the enemy intends for evil, God can transform for good. And we parents, like Ananias, are God’s messengers to our children. We’re called to peel the scales from their eyes, point them to Jesus, and guide them in wisdom and truth. Which means we first need to change the way we see their challenging qualities—so we can nurture the potential inside.
Yes, sometimes it’s scary, frustrating, exhausting, or downright maddening.
But it’s what God asks of us. And what a privilege we have to share in his work.
When my daughter grew tired of kicking and wailing outside the bathroom door, she stood up and plugged her mouth with her thumb. Her eyebrows crunched together and she clutched her elbows in her hands.
“Sweetheart,” I looked her straight in the eyes, “Someday you are going to use your determined nature for good.”
“What does that mean?” She scowled.
“It means God made you the way you are for a purpose. And I’m happy he did.”
“Hmmph.” She stomped a foot. “I don’t care.”
Yes, Lord, we’ve got our work cut out for us with this one. But Mom can be stubborn, too. I am determined to harness my daughter’s “decisiveness” for good purposes. And—to never again allow a bank teller to offer my daughter a sucker. Amen?