Remember Who You Are

Do you remember that classic youth group illustration, where someone stands on a chair, and then they try to pull someone on the floor up onto the chair with them?  Inevitably the person on the floor ends up pulling the person on the chair down instead, and the whole point is to choose your companions well, because it's easier for someone to pull you down than for you to pull them up.

I think there is some truth to that idea, but I find myself remembering that illustration now as I am reading middle-grade books this month.  One more reason why I enjoy reading middle-grade books that I didn't mention the other day is that it allows me to screen books for my kids to someday read.  And as I finished a book recently, I realized it was a great example of how a book can either lift up a child's behavior by inspiring a desire to be more respectful and gentlemanly and kind, or it can bring a child's behavior down by glorifying bad character or poor attitudes.

There are different ways that books can elevate kids, either by giving an example of how they should be, or sometimes by giving an example of how they should not be.  I just remember that my favorite books from my childhood are the ones that gave me that feeling of wanting to be nobler, kinder, and wiser.  As I try to decide what books I'd like to hand to my kids someday, I want to evaluate each book and decide - "Do I think this book will lift my child up, or pull them down?"

( I have to get full mileage out of all the pretty snow pictures before winter is over, so humor me!)

I recently finished reading Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt recently, and it instantly made the list of books I must read to my kids someday.  There are several great quotes I could share, but there is one in particular I wanted to expand on a bit today.

First, briefly, this book follows an American military family after an inherited Butler unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep.  He swoops in and changes many things right away.  From the first day that the Butler starts driving the kids to school, he tells them as he's dropping them off "Make good decisions, and remember who you are."

Toward the end of the book, as Carter (the main character) finds himself struggling through some difficult things, this exchange happens:

"'Have a good day, Young Master Carter,' said the Butler.  'Make good decisions, and remember who loves you.'

I looked at him. ' I thought it was "remember who you are?''

The Butler looked back at me.  'It is the very same thing.'"

As soon as I read that line it rang true, and I copied it down into my bullet journal.  I've been thinking about it since then, and realized I love that so much because it's exactly what I think my parents did for me, and what I hope for my kids - that they would know who they are because they know who loves them.

Their dad and I love them.  I love my kids more than I can even express to you, dear reader, and I'm sure you could say the same about your kids.  But I've also realized recently that in many ways I need to do a better job of showing my kids how I love them by giving them my full attention, instead of constantly be distracted by lesser things, so this idea was personally convicting to me.  I want them to know every minute of the day that they are gifts to me, not burdens, and that I love them not just with my words but with my actions.

Their siblings love them.  Promoting good sibling relationships is a constant effort, and sometimes I get exhausted by it all.  I often end up exasperated and shouting down the hall "Work it out!"  There are good moments too, but I'm sure you can relate to the struggle.  I have to trust that eventually, with all the instruction on sticking by your siblings, it will soak through. And this quote is another reason why I think it's important.  I want them to know they not only have their dad and me, but they also have their siblings to count on and to love them.

Their Savior loves them.  Eventually Derek and I will pass away, and who can say if my kids will live near enough or be close enough to be there for each other their whole lives?  I would hope for that, but no one knows what the future holds.  So more importantly than anything else, I pray for them that they would turn to Christ, and I always want them to remember who they are - fearfully and wonderfully made, redeemed, saved, made righteous through the blood of Jesus.  I want them to remember who loves them - Christ, their Savior, through whom and by whom and for whom all things are made, including them.  This is their anchor that will hold through every storm, this is what will keep them on track when the world seems to come down around them.

Remembering who they are.  Remembering who loves them.

I think teaching those two things is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child.  

Who would have thought I would have picked up parenting lessons from a middle-grade book?  Another reason why they are worth reading, if they're good, I tell you!

What do you think about books elevating or worsening behavior?  What tests do you use for your kids' books?

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Elizabeth said...

I hadn't heard that illustration, sounds like a good one! I remember a popular saying that you should remember WHOSE you are. When I was little, every night before bed my dad would ask me "who loves you the most?" And I learned to say it was God who loved me the most, and my parents after that. I think a lot about the intellectual input of books but don't always think about the message, so that's a good reminder. At the same time, any book can prompt good discussion. For example, we are reading the Little House on the Prairie Books and there are some controversial issues in there, like racism, etc. I'm glad we're homeschooling so we can talk about it together.

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