I’m convinced that many of today’s young people that have been labeled and medicated as having disabilities such as ADHD or even Autism-spectrum disorders would have been highly valued if they’d been born into more agrarian cultures than our own. While I’m not going to pretend to offer a perfect answer to the many dilemmas posed by the value our society places on more sedentary lifestyles and classroom decorum, I do think we need to look beyond societal taboos in order to see our kids as Christ sees them: Potential with a capital “P.” Sure, they all start out as diamonds in the rough, but the rougher the appearance, sometimes the more valuable the jewel.
Quiet or Outspoken
Any classroom teacher will probably admit to having a strong preference for the more sedate, compliant student who “goes with the program.” However, especially in our increasingly godless culture, is that always a positive trait? Certainly, we need to teach our kids to address concerns respectfully, but don’t we value open communication and the kind of questioning that leads to memorable learning?! What’s more, some of those more outspoken, go-against-the-flow tendencies can translate into spiritual survival and even pioneering advancement of the Gospel. Just look at Daniel and his friends in the Old Testament as well as the “Sons of Thunder” and Peter in the New Testament. These men stood up for Christ and were even willing to die for their faith, but I wonder if their parents struggled with them as kids.
Friendly or Bullying Type
This may be even harder to see than the first example, but maybe there’s more hope for the bully than for the kind of kid that accepts everyone. I mean, when you’re in a scuffle (or a verbal sparring match), what kind of person do you want on your side — someone that hates to offend anyone, or someone that is tenaciously committed to your cause or perspective? The same kind of bully that harms innocent people out of selfish motivations can learn to channel that same passion toward good. Case in point: the Apostle Paul.
Sedate or Hyper
Like the quiet classroom favorite, the more sedate child may well become a teacher’s pet, while the more active kids can make a peaceful home or classroom difficult to maintain. At the same time, which kid would you want in an emergency or when a physical task needs to get done? The creativity and energy often displayed by hyperactive children can be funneled into productive activity that benefits the cause of Christ. When I envision John Mark running from his calling but later being seen by Paul to be “useful,” I’m thankful for encouragers like Barnabas that see the potential in those diamonds in the rough and have the patience to help them maximize their God-given strengths.
When we see kids’ personalities as moldable and usable by God, we can help them maximize those strengths for His glory, even if the process is exhausting, some days! “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).