“Mom, did Abraham Lincoln change the world?”
My kindergarten son was doodling on the dry erase board and recreated a picture I suppose he had seen at school.
“Oh yes, bud, he sure did,” I replied. “Abraham Lincoln made a law that people could not own other people like property. He believed everyone should be free.”
“I know,” my boy sighed wittingly. “See, here he is telling all the people about the new law. Right here is the microphone.”
I smirked and held back a giggle about the microphone. This kid thinks of everything.
“I know something else, Mom,” Sweet Prince continued. “I know Martin Luther King changed the world too.”
President’s Day next week, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last month… I’m glad he’s listening at school! “You’re right, bud! He did change the world. He said…”
“He stood in front of people and talked, just like Abraham Lincoln,” he interrupted. Turns out he really was listening. “Martin Luther King talked to all the people, and he said they should be friends. He said all the kids should play on the playground together. Before, only the white children could play. All the black children had to just stand. But Martin Luther King wanted them to play together.”
My heart swelled as I smiled proudly. “Wow, you’re right, Prince. I’m so glad Martin Luther King, Jr. and others worked so hard so we could all be friends and play together.”
My boy’s eyes turned down. “He was arrested, you know.” I wasn’t sure how much he had learned at school. Before this year, our discussions of civil rights leaders had mostly centered on people loving each other and wanting to share. “The white people,” Prince said, “they hated the black people. And the black people hated the white people.”
“Not all the people hated each other,” I was quick to correct him. “Many people wanted to be friends. That’s why it was so important for leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. to stand up and talk like he did.”
He paused thoughtfully. “They shot him, too.” Sweet Prince spoke in a hushed, solemn tone.
“You’re right,” I said. “Some people did not like what he said. But his friends were not afraid. More people stood up and did the right thing, and now you and all your friends can play together on the playground.” Sweet Prince started to look up with hope. “Did you know Abraham Lincoln was shot too?”
“WHAT!” Apparently his kindergarten left that part out of the curriculum. Whoops.
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “There were people who didn’t like what he said either. They wanted to own people like property. But again, his friends were not afraid. They stood up for what was right, and now we don’t own people. We respect people.”
“Yeah, we don’t do that.” My Prince seemed aptly disgusted at the thought of slavery.
“Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr… They were super heroes, you know.” His eyes grew wide, picturing his favorite Marvel characters. I went on, “They were heroes because they did what was right, even when it was hard. There were bad guys who tried to stop them, but they weren’t afraid. They risked their own lives to help people. That’s what a hero does.”
He thought about this for a minute, then I pulled out one of his assignments from the 100th day of school. He had to write a few thoughts about if he was 100 years old.
If I was one hundred years old, I would be in an army. If there was danger, I will be there to save the day and rescue the people.
That’s my boy.
“You know, Prince, I believe God made you a hero too.” He laughed, incredulous at the idea that the Wolverine costume he was sporting could be his real uniform. “No really!” I insisted. “Look at what you wrote here.” I pointed to his writing assignment. “You want to save people from danger. When you play on the playground or climb way up in trees or jump off the high diving board, I see that you are so brave. God made you brave so that you can stand up to help people when they are in danger. I believe God will make you a hero, Prince.”
I pulled him in and hugged him with all my might. Suddenly I was keenly aware that he won’t always be there for me to hug. One day, he may risk his life to save others… He may even give it. And nothing would make me more proud, for him to demonstrate this great act of love.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
God has gifted each person to ultimately fulfill his or her calling, and those gifts are present from birth. We don’t have to wait until our children are grown to see glimpses of their destinies. I could have told you before Sweet Prince was a year old that God’s plan for him would be big and daring and would probably scare the pants off of me. He has always been a thrill-seeker. (For those of you who don’t speak Euphemism, that means he has been climbing – and falling – from the moment he became mobile.) He has always challenged me with his huge personality and desire to experience everything, good and bad. My prayer through the challenges – sometimes they are shouted at the sky in desperation or whispered through bitter tears in the shower – is that I might raise the man God created him to be rather than the easy, obedient, controlled child I often want him to be.
When we ask God for spiritual eyes to see our children as he created them, not only do we have more patience for their antics, but we are given vision for how these traits play into His Kingdom work. As we call out our children’s gifts – especially when they go against the grain of accepted behavior – we speak life and purpose into them. This builds confidence and gives them a sense of value that cannot be replicated from any other source.
Peggy O’Hara famously said, “How we speak to our children becomes their inner voice.” When my children face challenges, I don’t want their inner voice telling them, This is too much; I want them to hear, You were made for this.