On Sunday I was the substitute teacher in the 4th and 5th grade Sunday School class. This is a fun age group because they really like to talk. Well, that is, once they realize you genuinely want to listen. If they suspect your motive is to teach a lesson, they shift into zoned-out-classroom mode, but once they see that your goal is authentic conversation, they’re all in.
I went into class this week with a burning desire to share the good news that God has a unique plan for each of their lives, and I’d planned to take them on a field trip through Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29:11. I thought it would be so much fun to share these verses with a fresh audience – one who hasn’t grown tired of hearing them.
But as class began, I sensed God dropping a thought in my heart. “Tell them about David!” With so much excitement we talked about the job of a shepherd. We talked about how God was using the shepherd years to prepare David. We talked about Goliath (they really dig that story), and how fighting off dangerous animals prepared David to face Israel’s enemy – an enemy the grown-ups were too afraid to fight.
We looked as Psalm 139 and decided together that although David’s shepherd job was less than glamorous, he still had a positive self-image. He knew he was formed by God and that he was wonderfully made. Then we turned to Jeremiah, and I was able to draw their attention to the plans God for had for their own lives.
Truthfully, I’d gone into that class thinking I would be telling them something new, but it turned out I was the student that day. The kids had a lesson for me.
Unlike most of the teens and adults I’ve talked to about this topic, these kids were well aware that God had created each of them for a unique purpose, and every one of them had a clear idea of what it was. Not every kid had a career plan, but they knew I was talking about much more than a career, and when it came time to explain it, these kids blew me away with their self-awareness.
Not only did they understand the passion of their hearts, they knew a lot about themselves. They could tell me whether they preferred to spend free time alone or with someone they love or in a group. And their answers were all different from each other. They knew their strengths and their challenges, and they were able to talk about it without pride or embarrassment.
I was amazed by their confidence. These kids had no problem accepting that God has a plan for their lives, a plan to prosper them and give them a hope and a future. They just figured it was obvious, and they were excited to think about how God could be using their circumstances right now to prepare them for the future.
So here’s the burning question: what happens to people between 5th grade and high school? What happens in adulthood that fogs this understanding and muddies self-awareness? Very few people can successfully hold onto it.
Let’s change that for the next generation.