Final Post of Series
In the last three blog posts, we’ve been looking at the fifth element of The Blessing, by Gary Smalley and John Trent. We learned that there are four aspects to a Genuine Commitment – the fifth element to passing down a blessing to our children. Trent and Smalley call this becoming a student of your children, or those you want to be a source of blessing to. The best way to describe it is through an example with my own son, Lawrence.
Lawrence enjoys drawing. He’s quite good at it despite no formal training except some high school elective art classes. Throughout his high school years, drawing became a major preoccupation. It replaced his childhood passion of Lego’s.
Interestingly, when it came time for high school parent-teacher conferences our son’s teachers complained that his drawing became an issue in class-often getting in the way of learning. But then in the same breath, some teachers back-pedaled with, “But have you seen his drawings? He’s really good!,” they exclaimed with a large grin and a chuckle.
Upon our initial inspection of our son’s school binder, much to our dismay and surprise, most of his notebook paper didn’t contain class notes, but instead hundreds of elaborate and detailed drawings of trucks, hotrods with flames, and an array of classic cars. Sometimes, he integrated the lines of the notebook paper into his design. Impressed with his talent, but perplexed at the problem we were faced with, I found it hard to get overly angry; he just needed to learn there was a time for drawing and a time to shelve it for homework time. Over and over we had to insist that school came first and in his spare time he could draw. It took several rounds of this same lecture before the wisdom of our guidance took hold.
On the weekends he had the latitude to draw and draw he did. He drew meticulously and for hours. As for me, I marveled at his talent and enjoyed asking him about each of his projects and where he got his ideas from. Soon I grew frustrated seeing notebook lines distorting his beautiful drawings and the three holes ripped where he yanked the paper from his binder. That just won’t do I thought to myself. So one day I went to an art supplies store and purchased a 11 x 14” art tablet with room to expand his range, an array of colored and charcoal pencils, and a couple of pink erasers. As I drove home, I thought, maybe he will be designing cars like he always said he wanted to do.
Now, just three weeks away from high school graduation, I not only see his pictures as priceless pieces of his own unique ability, but also as part of his life story growing up. Of course, he thought I made too much of his artistic ability. It was the same with the complex and colossal Lego inventions he did from the time he could hold a single Lego block. To preserve the memory of his Lego structures, I took many pictures of him creating something “outside the box.” Obviously, he found a hobby that gave him joy and satisfaction. And these hobbies, working, building, and creating, may just serve him well in his life’s work.
The point is, we’re to be involved with our children’s passions. Talk about them and learn about them. For example, If your child loves to draw or paint bridges or lighthouses, learn the history together behind a particular bridge or lighthouse. If she is into clothes and wants to be a clothes designer, learn about the various designers and their unique trademarks. As Trent and Smalley say in The Blessing, it’s important to learn to be a student of your children. They add, “Realize that any shared activity with a child-from driving them to school or athletic practice to an airplane trip before they put on their headphones – offers tremendous opportunities to learn about our children.”1 Trent and Smalley also offer advice on how to connect with our children in casual ways. During those “unguarded times at the hamburger place, at the ball game, or while taking a walk. Don’t grill your child with questions as if you were giving a test. Just ask some casual questions in an offhanded way, and then really listen to the answers.”2 Some of Trent and Smalley’s suggested questions are:
- What do you think about when you daydream?
- What one thing would you like to do before you marry?
- What is your favorite part of school? What do you dislike the most?
- Who is your favorite person in the Bible? Why?3
According to Trent and Smalley, another way to convey acceptance and blessing is active listening.4 By putting down our cell phones and other electronics, we convey that what they have to say is worthy of our attention. Do we listen with our eyes? In other words, do we look at them when our children are trying to share something?
Learning to pass on a legacy of blessing to our children takes hard work. It takes sacrifice– time, energy, and emotions. If you’ve been with me through this blog series, you’ve learned the five elements of the blessing found in the book, The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley. It requires effort to meaningfully touch and hug our children. It takes courage to speak or write a message of meaningful words that convey their value to us, to convey a bright future with a special purpose. All of these elements take great commitment.
Those of you who have followed me through this series, thank you. I hope there were many benefits to it and great take-a-ways. I will close with these final thoughts from Trent and Smalley:
One day, perhaps years later, the blessing that you give will return. Those you bless will rise up and bless you. What’s more, you will find that the joy at seeing another person’s life bloom and grow because of your commitment to seek their best is a blessing in itself.5 Giving our children the blessing is like casting bread upon the waters. In years to come they, too, will rise up and bless us.6
Please share any comments or final thoughts about this series. And let me know what topics you’d like to read about on this blog. It is here for you. Blessings,
1 John Trent and Gary Smalley. The Blessing (Nashville, TN., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993), 145
2 Ibid. 146
4 Ibid. 147
5 Ibid. 152
6 Ibid. 153