The children’s book titled, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado says it best. It brings to light what’s always on my heart this time of year dating all the way back to my own childhood.

So often we receive mixed messages. It’s hard not to be persuaded. Afterall, human beings are easily persuaded, often without even realizing it is happening. Those feelings we get sometimes, those feelings of being worthless or worth less, either way it’s unpleasant at the very least and deeply painful at most, and it happens quite often, especially to children.

Now…am I a person who says we should not acknowledge and honor achievement and hard work? No, I’m not suggesting that at all, but I am suggesting we be careful and mindful of what we are actually teaching in the way we go about making acknowledgement. It matters.

Each year at school’s end, awards days and banquets are planned and gatherings occur where many receive awards. Most often the ones who have been celebrated all year are once again in the spotlight getting more accolades while the rest sit quietly and offer applause. Year after year after year…yet we say, “work as if unto The Lord”, “do not seek the approval of men”, “esteem others above yourself”, and “the heart is what matters most.” Do we mean it?

This is so close just now with me because of a recent experience with Noah. He had been coming home every day for weeks exercising consistently, vigorously, and fully self-motivated. We were and are very proud of his diligence. However, he shared with us that he was trying to get strong enough to get a fitness award at school. After assessments were complete, he came home very disappointed. He had achieved the necessary score in all but one category required in order to get the award. Of course we congratulated him for the success he had achieved, but his heart was heavy because it still wasn’t good enough for award recognition. How to handle this with him??? I pondered and then asked, “how many awards did Jesus get when He was on earth?” Noah thought for a bit and then said, “that’s good, Mom.”

On the drive in to school this morning, I reminded Noah of scriptures I’ve noted above, how we should ALWAYS do our very best to honor God, not to get recognition from others; that we should ALWAYS encourage others to do their best for the same reason and that we should not be competing to elevate ourselves above others. For the larger world, that is okay, it IS the goal, but for those seeking to follow Christ, our goal is for Him to be glorified and honored. We honor Him when we do the best with what He has given us, when we use gifts and talents for noble purposes, NOT for self-recognition. This, this folks, is a hard lesson to teach and an even harder lesson to live, but it is the honorable life, the one lived out for the glory of God and for the benefit of our brothers and sisters.

There is so much I don’t know, so much wisdom I seek daily, and still so much struggle for goodness, yet I’m seeing the conflicts and contradictions so evident in our culture and even in our immediate community. If we want our children to love and equally value others, we must be careful to demonstrate it, to model it before them.

I was thinking earlier how sometimes I will be set on ready to open my mouth to criticize another person when The Holy Spirit shows me an honest picture of my hypocrisy, how I’m guilty of exactly what I’m about to speak of another. That, my friends, is conviction and calls to repentance; it calls on me to hold my tongue and ask for forgiveness instead of offering a critique of another. An honest journey is a hard journey but the only one worth making. I’m trying hard, very hard to raise a young boy into a man of integrity. I pray it will be so.

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