But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
Parenting. It has proved to be the greatest joy in my life and the greatest challenge. I have wonderful kids. But kids, no matter how great, are men and women in progress and the journey, if done right, takes a lot of patience, time and teaching. And even then, there are no guarantees. I can remember early on in my parenting thinking that there was a magic formula out there. X+Y=Great Kids. I laugh at myself now. I spent many years searching that magic formula, and what I found is this: It doesn't exist. There are some really good books out there. And one book may really work well for one child. But if you think you have it all figured out, have another child. You will most likely be humbled. The Bible has served as a wonderful guide for me. It is full of phenomenal wisdom. The book of Proverbs alone offers countless warnings and advice that we can pass onto our children. And as a parent, I can't pass on what I don't know, so spending time in God's Word is imperative.
Even with all of this, one of the things that has struck me lately is how so many people, including myself at times, focus on the outward actions of children and ignore the heart. If a child is following the rules, doing well in school, excelling at sports, then we deem ourselves successful parents. But what if that child is doing all of these things with the wrong heart attitude? Society would certainly look at your picture perfect kid and deem them a success. But some kids are messier. Some kids make a lot of mistakes. They challenge the system, they don't excel in school or aren't future Mozarts. Some of them struggle with confidence, shyness, being more emotional, having extra energy or being overly bold. No kid fits in a box. What I have seen watching many people parent is that if their child scrubs up well, they're okay with it. I think there is much, much more to it.
God looks at the heart, and so should we. The trouble with it is that some people, and children, are good at masking it. But if you look deep enough, you will see through the shiny appearance and be able to see more clearly where we should be focusing our parenting. I have had two kids that were tough raising through the early school years (one is still there). They had a lot of anxieties, which fed into how they acted. They were more "in your face" kind of kids and saw life in very black and white terms and were less likely to back down. I have another child who is easy going, laid back, sweet and likeable to others. Yet as the light shines into areas of their lives, I'm seeing some things. Often times my stronger willed child will make mistakes. But more often than not, she comes to me with a very broken heart. She genuinely feels bad and wants to make amends for her mistake. Yet the easier going child, often times is hard hearted when conflicts arise. She plays the system much better than her siblings and receives the rewards from society, yet we can see that it isn't always for the right reasons.
Playing the system well will work in your child's favor in this world. They will most likely have better jobs, be more liked and possibly more successful in worldly terms. We aren't raising just adults though. A friend recently said to me "We are raising souls for eternity". Wow. That is where our focus should be. If God looks at the heart, than we most should certainly try, as much as possible, in our human wisdom. Our goal shouldn't be for our children have the most accolades, be the most athletic or best musician. Those things are great, and if a child has had to work really hard for those things, what a wonderful character builder! But even more importantly, it's time to celebrate when they are kind, when they are remorseful when mistakes are made, when they have deep compassion for others. It's time we start looking past the outward things and into the heart. We are, after all, raising souls for eternity.