A Winsome State of Mind
This week's Winsome Ways tip is not so much a method or teaching aid as it is a way of thinking. To be brief, being winsome in working with children is remembering to be open to the felicities that happen along the way most unexpectedly.
This was recently driven home to me in a situation that arose with my dogs. No, I am not equating children with dogs. Rather, I am saying I relearned a lesson I thought I had mastered many years ago - this time in a different application - that of my pups.
When I embarked on a canine therapy ministry in early 2013, I decided I didn't want to wait one to two years before I could get started. With this in mind, I brought home a nine month old rescue pup thinking she would be able to start training immediately and then pass her Canine Good Citizen test and be good to go while the younger puppy grew. Indeed, Mercy completed her training with good results, but when it came time to take her CGC test, she was unable to pass all ten items. As time went on, she also began to show some unwanted behaviors that resulted in two additional obedience classes and more than a couple embarrassing moments for me, her handler.
Not only had my plans for her come to a bit of a standstill, I nearly lost my confidence and zeal for the ministry that I had been so excited to begin. Even so, I struggled on and a year later, took the risk of making arrangements for the younger dog to attempt his therapy dog evaluation. As the day approached, I nearly backed out but went anyway. Long story short, my younger dog, Justice, passed not only the Canine Good Citizen but the test required by Therapy Dog International as well. It may sound strange, but that day just last week was one of the happiest of my life for a number of reasons. Thanks to God's provision for Justice's success, the vision for a local canine therapy outreach has been strengthened, and I am ready to revisit Mercy's ability to become certified. Who knows? Perhaps I'll even attempt old man Mac. And thanks to the good words of my friend Cathy (read her stuff here), I was able to not only rejoice in my younger dog's success and the ministry's forward movement, I was reminded in a fresh way that, as with our plans for anything, our plans for our children do not always come to fruition in the way we had expected.
Children are living, breathing image bearers of the divine - created by Someone other than ourselves; created with purpose and by design. God's timeline for them is not always our timeline. God's plans for them don't always fall into place in the way we envisioned. The younger may outperform the older - at least for a time. But we must continue on - giving opportunities for all that they might achieve at their highest potential. We need to be willing to flex - to submit - to the good and wise ways of our loving Father. We need to trust Him rather than ourselves. We need to know that our children are His creation not ours - that it isn't about us - that they aren't us - that being their parents and teachers is all for His glory. We need to press on through failure and persevere when things don't go according to plan. We must not let labels or our preconceived notions of who they are limit them. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, we must keep to His course with eternity in mind, remembering that God's measure of success is not always the same as ours, and yet it is much higher and lovelier and purer than ours will ever be.
Like I said - I thought I mastered this a long time ago, but it appears as though this old dog still needs to (re)learn a few not-so-new tricks.