I admit, I got into a lot more trouble than my siblings. Honestly, during my teenage years, I probably got into more trouble than all of them put together. Of the four of us, I was the one who kept my parents up late at night worrying, distressing about my fierce rebellious streak and wondering how in the world it had gotten there.
I’d bring home notes from teachers explaining why I’d been sent to the principal’s office . . . again. Then my parents would take me back to the one bedroom that was down a different hallway from the rest, where we’d talk . . . among other things. (Ahem.)
If there was a theme to my troublemaking, it was usually because of something I’d said or the way I’d said it. “My mouth,” as my mother called the culprit. And that mouth appeared all set to cause me a lifetime of trouble if I didn’t do something to soften it and restrain it and put it to good use.
So my parents, um . . .
They helped me with that problem.
Every time I spoke out of turn or too much or too rudely or too grown-up for my age, they were very faithful to discipline me appropriately. But the discipline part was never the end-all of the situation. There would also be a conversation afterward, where my parents would talk with me about why my mouth was getting me into trouble, and how I could change all of that if I’d just take it seriously.
Or maybe if I’d just take it in a different direction . . .
They were the first to plant the idea in my head that my aptitude for talking could actually be a benefit to me, even to others. They encouraged me, for example, to read to our family some of the poetry and monologues I’d been writing, occasionally even allowing me to present them at church during service or at a special program. Rather than stifling me, they put a microphone in my hand and encouraged me to edify others instead.
My mother’s sister, also, who directed the children’s ministry at our church for nearly three decades, put me up in front of a Sunday school class of six-year-olds and let me teach them a Bible lesson when I was only ten. That was my first time teaching the Bible, and it lit a fire in my soul for it that has never gone out.
Then as college drew closer, my dad directed me to think about taking up communications as a major. (I didn’t even know such a degree plan existed.) He even set me up with an internship at a Christian radio station in the city where I’d be studying. And after graduation, he was the one who advised me to consider speaking and teaching as a career and ministry.
Turns out this mouth of mine didn’t need to be stifled as much as it just needed to be redirected by loving, caring parents who could see beneath the surface of my youthful foolishness and imprudence. And I’m so glad they did—so appreciative that they valued encouragement and instruction every bit as much as correction and discipline. It’s sure made all the difference for me.
What are you seeing in your children that God is asking you to steward instead of stifle?
You are fiercely loved!