Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it. –Proverbs 22:6
In the nine years I tutored second graders, I learned a lot about my young friends. I heard their stories. Happy stories, some sad stories, and lots of wishful ponderings. There were times they seemed to need to talk more than work on their reading skills, so we did that.
There was one little girl I think of often. Late in our year together, she told me she didn’t have any close friends in her class. She said she felt like she didn’t fit in. I couldn’t have been more surprised. I thought she had the full package: well-mannered, respectful, smart, neat in appearance, attractive in every way. Why would this delightful little seven-year-old ever feel rejected?
Maybe it was just a bad day or week for J. I hope that’s all it was. But there was one thing I knew for sure. Her young life was being built on a solid foundation of faith in the Lord. She had told me of her recent baptism and I knew she was very familiar with the Bible. J astounded me one day with the correct pronunciation of each book of the Bible! It was something that happened by accident but was the highlight of that year’s tutoring. She said she had been taught all the books of the Bible at her church.
Like J, I was brought up in the church. Also like J, I experienced times of being left out. I experienced them as a child and I’ve experienced them as an adult. They aren’t good memories.
Sometimes we feel rejected without an actual reason, of course. We have summed something up to be true when it really isn’t. Other times we are deliberately treated unkindly and those wounds go deep. I read recently of someone who moved far away from where she had known deep pain from rejection. She determined never to return to the place where people had so harshly judged her.
Feeling rejected or judged may be two of the hardest things we deal with in life. It shouldn’t matter that we don’t meet others’ standards, but it does for most of us. Some of us care too much. (Can you see my hand lifted high?) We are all different in how much being rejected or judged affects us.
J’s mother had to be soundly grounded in her own faith for she knew the importance of what she was passing on to her daughter. How I admired this woman I never met!
At the earliest age, children need Bible instruction. They need to be taught about Jesus and that He is our safe place. No matter what may be happening, or seem to be happening, we can count on Him as a friend who will never leave us. When I’ve felt rejected or judged, it has always been to God that I have turned. I’ve leaned into His embrace and found comfort and new strength.
Though something had happened to cause this child to feel rejected, I saw strength. The strength that comes from knowing Jesus. Close attention was being paid to J’s spiritual growth. I saw the solid footing for making it through the storms of life.
It is a very wise parent who makes spiritual training a priority.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. –Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NIV