or, Training and Trusting
Of course you’ve heard teenagers and even younger children claim, “My parents don’t trust me.” Every child psychologist will tell parents that the important thing is that they trust their children: trustworthiness is sure to follow. I’m sorry, but I’m just not used to paying for something and waiting six to eight weeks for delivery with no assurance of delivery or recourse when delivery is not made. Trustworthiness is something which results from training, and not from previously-doled-out trust.
Enter Joel L. He’s a second-grader in my Sunday School class at the Campus Church, Pensacola, FL. He’s also the most trustworthy and best-behaved child in the class. In fact, when I need someone to deliver something to the Junior Church teacher (Junior Church follows Sunday School, and is in a different classroom), he is the only student whom I have ever so much as considered for the errand. Joel can spout off a semester’s-worth of Bible verses at the drop of a hat (“How about the one before that, Joel? Do you remember that one?”), answer questions about last week’s story like nobody’s business, and sit still to boot! I have an idea. Let’s follow him for a moment to see where his behaviour and trustworthiness originated: from trust, or from training.
Friday, December 17th, 2004. Sports Center, Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL.
The semester had officially ended at 9:45 that morning. Most of the student body had left, and most of us stragglers were in the Sports Center (gym, weight rooms, bowling, racquetball, ice skating, and miniature golf, along with pool, foosball, and places to just sit and chat or play games) killing time. My friends and I were sitting around watching The Artistry of Ivan1 on Rachel’s computer and making small talk. Suddenly Joel came (from nowhere, as far as I could figure) and stood over me (I was seated on the carpet). He and I chatted a bit, and he eventually sat down to watch the movie with us.
After not too long, Mrs. L, his mom, came over. I stood up to introduce myself (as the recipient of the cookies she had sent with him to Sunday School the previous Sunday to give to his teachers), and ended up in a conversation. I mentioned rather quickly how much I enjoyed having Joel in my class, and how well he always behaved himself.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that! I worry about him . . . When we do school, the girls always do their work, but he always wants to go outside and play.”
Are you seeing where I am going with this? The kid was homeschooled (which I had found out a couple of weeks earlier — but which in no way surprised me, given his beyond-years maturity). That’s nearly a given these days when you run across the rare decorous, well-behaved child. That aside, however, did you see how even the mother of my best student was not assuming of his behaviour?
A child can sense the difference between assumption and expectation, I think. Assumption states that the child will be trustworthy because I trust him. Expectation states that the child will be trustworthy because I train him; and because I, knowing that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”2, watch for the untrustworthiness when (not “if”) it crops up so I can immediately and lovingly correct it.
And you know, that is love.3 A kid like Joel is going to grow up and go places. A kid like D_____ (unanimously the worst-behaved kid in the class) is going to need some help. But you know, Joel’s folks could blow it. They could start trusting him — who, as sweet and obedient as he is, has a deceitful heart and a sin nature just like you or I. And D_____’s parents could stop trusting him and start training him. That would make all the difference.
1. The Artistry of Ivan is a student-produced documentary of Hurricane Ivan. Daniel Allen, a student at Pensacola Christian College, arranged for footage to be taken throughout the campus during the lockdown for the hurricane itself, as well as interviewing numerous faculty, staff, administration, students, and Pensacola residents after the hurricane had passed. The two-disc set, including a half-hour documentary and a large library of still images and short video clips, may be ordered from Brand X Multimedia by calling 815-212-3564 or 815-886-4144. The cost is $15US +S&H. It is well worth fifteen dollars to see the good coming from Ivan — the good that only God can bring from a catastrophe. As Mr. Allen said, “Ivan’s terror was not random or evil. It was all part of the Painter’s perspective to show forth the glory of God.” The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. — Nahum 1:3b
2. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” — Jeremiah 17:9
3. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” — Proverbs 13:24
c.f. Proverbs 22:15 and 23:13