PEARLS OF CHILDHOOD

The Principle of believing in your child

I CHOSE THE WRONG CHILD FOR A ROYAL TASK

 All children are gifted. It is their duty of parents to nurture the gift so that each child can lead a fulfilled life. Each child can make use of their gift to benefit themselves and others around them. The gift fits into the bigger picture of the life the family, the community, the nation and ultimately contributes to the world.

All children are meant to have an exceptional future. All they need is someone to believe in them. Someone who can identify the uniqueness, foster it for the good of the child and to profit others. However, it is unfortunate that there are many adults today who look back on their childhood and regret that there had been no one to believe in them and urge them to become the great people they were meant to be. In one women’s empowerment meeting, one woman testified that she regretted that her parents forcefully took her out of school and pushed her into marriage. She was doing her final year in primary school and was just about to enter secondary school. She narrated that she had had an affair with a boy in the community. One day they had gone out to play with some friends and she returned home late. Her parents were extremely upset with her. The next day her parents arrived at the boy’s house and insisted that the boy’s parents take her in and look after her. That is how she got married. After five children, she was divorced. She now lives with her children in a shanty where she conducts a small business to sustain her family. She wishes her parents had given her a chance to complete education. Even though she is now trying to do that by attending adult education classes, she says it is not the same as being in full-time school, besides, she is hardly able to meet the demand of school with her meagre resources. There are many such stories. There are more people who can attest to lost opportunities simply because they did not have a shoulder to lean on, someone to have been patient with them and given them a chance to become leaders, or great entrepreneurs and so on.

David was gifted, and he was meant for greatness. His gift was beneficial to him- it brought him necessary recognition and gave him an opportunity to enter the realm of leadership. David was good at playing music instruments like the harp and the flute. It was this gift that ushered him into King Saul’s court.

“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” Proverbs 18:16

“One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.” 1 Samuel 16: 18

David contributed to the history of Israel, he founded the nation of Israel when he became the second king. It was under David’s rule that the united nation of Israel was born. He established Jerusalem as the capital and it remained so for 400 years until it was seized by the Babylonians. He set in motion the construction of the Temple. He could have built the temple, but God told him that his son Solomon would be given that task.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.”  Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.” David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him. Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David.  Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” 2 Samuel 5:6-12

David was marked for greatness from childhood. He must have shown the leadership traits except his father and brothers did not see it that way. How many children have found themselves in this situation, where no one believes in their abilities or talents? Some parents literally ignore one child in preference for another. Then there are some children who are their parents’ favourites, blinding attention to their siblings. Today, there are many broken homes and families, as such, many children fall out of the range of the attention of parents or guardians. Also, because of poor parenting skills, some children just do not get the necessary guidance. There are many reasons why children’s talents or special qualities do not get recognised. In the modern era for example, most parents would rather recognise a child who is displaying academic prowess. Such parents will attend every award ceremony, they will talk about their child’s achievements publicly and even make time to sit and discuss the future with the child. Some children do not have anyone to recognise that they are capable of anything. They will be lucky enough to find a random person like a teacher, priest or other relative to help them develop their gifts into something tangible. There are also parents who just do not know how to handle their own child’s giftedness. They do not understand what it means and may not even have the capacity to help their child. For instance, a child who is a very good singer. A child with such a talent may end up depending on others, if they are lucky or working things out for themselves. It is usually when children try to work things out for themselves that some find themselves in very difficult situations; drugs, prostitution, alcohol, bad company- the list is endless. For most children though, the gift just goes to waste, they will be lucky enough to sing in a church choir. For some children, fate dictates how they eventually get recognised and how they get connected to the rest of the world, as it was in the case of David. The story of David is quite compelling in teaching about the need for parents to believe in their children. It does not matter whether the child is exceptionally good academically or not. It does not matter what your child is good at, you must believe in them. Some children are not academically strong, that does not make them dull. It only means the child is good at something else. Someone once said that for some children, their parent or guardian might just be the only hero they will ever have – so make it count.

Having been a teacher for over twenty years, I had the privilege of interacting with thousands of secondary school children. Every year, they walked through the doors of my English, History and Literature classes. Some started with me from the beginning of junior secondary school or junior high and we made our academic journey together all the way to final year in high school. There were those who were exceptionally gifted, then there were those who were clearly struggling. As a teacher, it is very easy to overlook the latter. However, I always counted my success as a teacher based on the so called ‘weak’ students. My principle was that if I could get them to believe in themselves and help them work toward a certain goal, they could achieve anything. I have a string of testimonies of boys and girls who call me up to thank me for giving them an opportunity to become the best they could. It was simple- in a mixed class of the ‘weak’ and the ‘strong’, let the latter use their strength with minimal guidance and then invest more time and energy to build the ‘weak’. Any child can become better if someone believed in them. Among those who came into my class some were not just academicians. It was easy to see their faces light up on sports days or when it was time for extra-curricular activities like drama or singing or dancing competitions. Unfortunately, parents of such children always walked away disappointed when they came to collect the test record cards. These parents did not take time to read the other comments from the teacher about how well their child was doing in drama or sports. It was quite disheartening to hear comments like, ‘where will sports take you?’ or ‘can you make a living out of drama?’ At that point, those children felt like absolute failures. They looked at how other parents would be beaming over their child’s academic success. They believed their world had come to an end. I am glad I believed in those students; some of whom have become great sports men and women. Others have gone into music and I am happy that some get back to be mentored on how to write a book.

David’s story was like what some children experience. He was the youngest son of Jessie. From what the Bible says, he was not well-built; probably he was small in stature. It looked like he was not considered for the ‘bigger’ tasks, like going to war. Instead he was sent to look after sheep. David took sheep into the wild where there were few other shepherds. Therefore, there was really no one to witness his achievements. He was a shepherd, as such he must have taught himself some leadership skills- for how were the sheep going to be following him. In a bid to pass time, he must have been writing psalms, poems and history. He must have also been perfecting his music skills. David also experienced some adventure when a lion and a bear attacked his sheep. He came out as a warrior and attacked back and killed both the lion and the bear with his hands. If David could knock out Goliath with one stone, then he must have also been practicing the catapult. Above all, this future king of Israel was a worshipper, that is how he became a man after God’s own heart. Now the question is, did Jesse know all these things about his son? If he did, he did not believe in David. When Samuel the Priest arrives to anoint the next king of Israel, Jesse does not even think about David. He lined up all his seven sons but had to be reminded if there was another one. David’s father does not believe that he qualified.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

1 Samuel 16: 1-11

Jesse was thinking about how strong his other sons were; muscular, military-like and perhaps articulate in speech. His son David did not have any of these qualities. For God told Samuel the Priest that he should consider neither height nor outward appearance. David who was tending sheep was young, probably not so well-built and not strong.

What David was good at did not qualify him for leadership. How can a young man good at playing the lyre, lead a nation? Isn’t this the same as a parent asking, ‘are you going to make a living out of music?’ David needed to be a warrior, tall, broad shoulder, strong. According to most people these are the traits that pass for courage, wisdom and are marks of true leadership. But David’s father didn’t quite believe in him. He didn’t know his son’s capabilities. In fact, his brothers and father did not know David. For while he played with the catapult he became so good at it that he used it to knock out the giant Goliath in a battle that had had the entire army of Israel running scared and hiding in the trenches. David was a warrior – he presented his resume to King Saul shortly before he took up the Goliath challenge.

Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”  But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock,  I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover, David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:31-37

David displayed pure courage when he presented his resume to the King. One thing to never forget is that he was a worshipper, a man who had a relationship with God. He trusted God in ways that the rest of army of Israel did not. He had had an encounter with God and that made him more of a warrior than his own brothers.

“Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: …David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephaha of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them. They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines…He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other…As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear…David asked those standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” …When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are little more than a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised

Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”…Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine…David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him”. 1 Samuel 17:1-50

Imagine the look on his brothers’ faces when they saw David running toward Goliath. The horror that they foresaw because they could only imagine one thing would happen to their younger brother. Perhaps they even had a small discussion like this.

Shammah with his jaws nearly dropping asked, “What does he think he is doing?”

Abinadab shrugged his shoulders in utter disbelief.

Eliab said, “you know how conceited that little boy is. He is trying to get himself killed”.

But the three brothers just stood there watching in shock because even if they wanted to ‘save’ David, they couldn’t, they feared the giant. The rest of the army looked on, half of them afraid, another half could have been praying for David to die in peace. But none of them imagined the victorious outcome. David’s brothers did not believe in him even at this point that he could save an entire nation. To them, he was just a shepherd boy who looked after a few sheep and should have gone back to be a shepherd and not try to be a warrior. The Bible does not record how the brothers reacted to David’s victory, but it can only be imagined that they were even more surprised, dumbfounded, utterly speechless.

It is at a point that parents fail to reconnect with their child, when their child is victorious. What do you really do when a child you didn’t believe in, suddenly becomes a winner, an achiever, in the field or subject that you once looked down upon. Every child has an exceptional future. The signs are there from childhood. All children need is someone to believe in them, someone who can guide them through their attempts, failures and successes. The gifts or talents come from God for a purpose. The uniqueness and gift go beyond benefiting an individual, a family, a community, to serving an entire nation. What needs to be done is to nurture the talent, develop it and let each child blossom. This reminds of the story of Dr. Ben Carson, ‘Gifted Hands’. Thank God, his mother believed in him. She invested her time and energy into developing his gift and look at how the world has benefitted from this one man. There are many stories and there will even be more stories to learn from, if each parent or guardian believed in that one child. The simple words, ‘you can do it’, are more than enough to fuel passion, motivation, inspiration for a child to do his or her best. Children are appointed by God for great tasks, like it was in the case of David, King of Israel. What about Mary the mother of Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World. She needed to have faith in the great task that God had bestowed upon her. She was fully aware of the special gift that came with God’s son. She pondered these things in her heart, most importantly she did her role as a parent together with her husband Joseph to help Jesus fulfill the great prophecy of the salvation of the world. She could have used her human nature and discouraged him, or she could have stood in his way. However, she bore the pain of a mother watching her son being beaten, dragged, spat upon and crucified. She watched in horror and in deep anguish as her own son fulfilled God’s great love for the entire world.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:25-27

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:16-19 “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2: 1-5

What do we learn from this? Yes, that sometimes parents must go through the painful process of bringing their children on the path to success. Believing in your child can be easy, but at times it is not easy to help them succeed. For some children illness can be a big obstacle. They could be determined but find it very difficult to complete some tasks. For instance, children with disabilities. Yes, they too need to be believed in and at their pace work toward their goal in life. Make time to define success with your child. Set the goal with them and work toward it. Do not determine success for one child based on another child’s capacity. Each child should be encouraged individually but taught to be part of a team. Help each child understand that when they succeed, they have done it for themselves and for those immediately around them.

Mary knew that her son was God incarnated as man and she believed in him and understood what he was capable of accomplishing. She also understood that her son’s mission was beyond the family, it was beyond the confines of Nazareth and Israel -Jesus had come to save the entire world!

Some parents are fully aware that their children are headed for greatness but for some reason cannot do anything about it. Jacob knew that Joseph would one day be a ruler, but he kept it to himself, he did not do anything about it. Perhaps he didn’t know what to do, just like some parents. There is help, among friends, among teachers, the church; by all means ask God Himself who created that child with that exceptional gift. Seek God for guidance. Tell him about the difficulties you are facing on what to do with your child. Jacob could not even guide his son about how to manage his dreams. His son Joseph spoke freely, of how he would be great and how his brothers would one day bow before him. In the end it just got him into trouble. His brothers became jealous and sold him into slavery.

Then there was Samuel, the priest. From as young as two or three years, he was placed in the Lord’s service. Samuel’s mother, Hanna had pledged him to the Lord’s service before he was even born. His mother believed that he was meant to do great things in the service of God. Yet there are many parents who refuse to support their children to do the work of the Lord. The moment the child says he is going to be a priest or a pastor, they oppose their child. I remember one mother telling her son what a big mistake he had made by choosing to become a priest. She added, ‘your father and I have wasted so much money educating you and you will never be able to support us financially. Why can’t you just get a normal job like everybody else?’ Dear parent, your child is not everybody else – your child was not born to live and work within normal and ordinary. Dear parent, your child is extraordinary and was ordained by God that way. It should never come as a surprise when a child chooses a certain career. A child’s career is known from when they are young. You can tell from the way they speak, their choices, their hobbies and so many other signs that parents should pay attention to. These are the things that a child needs a lot of support in. Any parent who believes in their child and the child’s abilities will get to know all these things and work with the child to help them become achievers. Can you just imagine if Jesse had taken time to listen to David’s adventurous stories, about how he killed the lion or the bear, he would have known that his son was brave. He would have known that he could become a king. I want to imagine that Jesse probably brushed off David’s stories as mere fantasies or childish dreams. I have seen parents who turn such achievements into jokes and this works very badly on their child. David retold his feats to King Saul, which means he must have been sharing all these experiences with the people around him; his father, his brothers and they just passed them of as childishness and probably told him to stop daydreaming while he was out tending the sheep.

“When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before”. 1 Samuel 16:

What about his skills in playing music instruments? Did his father listen to him- maybe, but had he taken it seriously? Perhaps that is why Jesse thought David did not qualify to be king, he was just good at playing a flute and liked fantasising.

“So he sent and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came on David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah”. 1 Samuel 16: 12-13

Every child’s destiny is marked out even before they are born. No one, not even a parent should stand in the way to stop what God has planned.

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1: 1- 10

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