Monday, January 03, 2005

Illustrated Lessons

There is an old illustration that has been told over and over throughout the years about a father who went to the preacher to ask for help with his children. "My son doesn't care about life, and he attends church reluctantly. He doesn't understand Christian living." he said, "And my daughter has no sense of values and just wants to waste her time with worthless things." "I am disappointed that they do not live up to their full potential, even though they are in their teens now. I want something better for them than the mediocre lives they live. Will you go and talk to them?" he asked.

The preacher asked the distraught man to sit down and make a list of all his hope and dreams for his children. He was told to list any character qualities, such as patience, goodness, courage, and so forth, and anything involving the development and use of their talents and natural abilities in art, music, and creativity. He told him to write down the things he hoped his children would accomplish in their lives.

When he had finished he handed the list to the preacher. Hopefully, he asked, "Now, will you talk to them?"

"Yes, I will talk to them," said the preacher, "But first, I want you to do something for them." Eagerly, the father said, "Just tell me what you want me to do! I'll do anything to save my children!"

"Then take this list, and do not come back to see me until you have completed every thing on it yourself."

Sadly, the man went away, but in a few years, he came back and said, "That was the best advice you ever gave me. Not only did it lift me up from my immediate despair, but in developing my full talents and living the life I wanted my children to live, I was able to inspire them to do the same thing. My son and daughter are not just 'doing well,' but rising far above me in godly character, enthusiasm for what God is doing in their lives, development of talents, and service to others. Not only that, but they prefer my company, and I prefer theirs."

Folks, I have to tell you that this story has impressed me so much over the years, that whenever I get a little worried about the way other people are behaving, I immediately remember the preacher's advice, and start demonstrating the principles in my life that I want others to live by.

We live in troubled times, as we can see and hear, daily, but there is no sense in wishing you were born in a more genteel era or a time when society was more family oriented. The fact is, you are here in this century, and you are placed here at this time for a reason. If you are depressed by the way women are dressing these days, then dress differently yourself. If you feel society lacks real vitality and life and wish there was something wholesome to attend, why not create something yourself. Many concerts, fashion shows, book clubs, sewing and craft circles, begin with one person in her own home and grow to have many chapters throughout the area.

Whatever you want others to be, be that yourself, first. Lead the way and many will follow. This is because enthusiasm and goodness catch on.

If you have ever been frustrated as a mother, at the way the children neglect the cleaning of their rooms, or the way they ignore the condition of the home, and you've instructed, nagged, and talked until you are a nervous wreck, try this preacher's advice. You'll notice that when you get in the mood to clean up your bedroom, and declare that you aren't going anywhere or doing anything until that room is clean, you'll find the activity and enthusiasm is contagious. When I stopped reminding my children over and over to clean up their rooms, and began to show the example myself, I found that they "caught" these good habits.

You know, yourself, that when someone starts something, other people can naturally begin to immitate it, almost unconsciously. If you have young children, remember that good habits are caught, as well as taught. If you'll expose them to good works and good habits, you'll find that it will become automatic with them later.

To this day, when I become a little anxious about the direction the lives of the people in my family are going, or the direction society is going, I look inward and find ways to start the things that I want others to do. Are you lonely and need more hospitality? Show more yourself. Would you like something special to happen? Do it yourself. Do you wish someone would write you a letter? Write one yourself. Is your friend or neighbor a discontented, complaining homemaker? Start living the way you wish she would live. Now, don't do this just to get someone to change. Just do it because you ought to do it. Don't write a letter just hoping for something in return. The reward is in doing it.

Someone once asked me if this practice of doing what you wish others in society would do, was some sort of distraction from feeling bad about the way things are. No, it isn't. The idea is to show an example, and it will rub off on others. People can't say "no" to success. There have been many things that are very successful these days, which were begun by one woman in her neighborhood. Anything that is good, will always multiply in some way.

So if you want some spiritual quality for someone, or some good work done, then try doing it yourself.

Here is a poem by Helen Steiner Rice which illustrates some of this principle:

The more you give, the more you get--
The more you laugh, the less you fret--
The more you do unselfishly,
The more you live abundantly...
The more of everything you share,
The more you'll always have to spare--
The more you love, the more you'll find
That life is good and friends are kind...
For only what we give away
Enriches us from day to day.

(poem:"Give Lavishly! Live Abundantly!")

While we do have great expectations of the church members, our friends, our spouses, our children, our parents and others, we can sometimes grow disappointed and discouraged at their failures or lack of achievement. Living, dressing, and behaving the way you "wish" things would be in life, helps get that trend going!


Lydia said...

Thank you, thank you for this comment, for it sent my thinking in another direction, totally. I had expressed these thoughts because of the scripture from Matthew, "First take the log out of your own eye, before removing the splinter from your brother's eye." This has saved me, over the years, from much aggravation. I live with "messies"--people who haven't got time to look after themselves, but each time I'm tempted to go into a long lecture about things piling up or out of place, or maybe the state of the outdoor area they are responsible for, and chores not done, all I have to do is look at the state of my own sewing supplies, my papers and books, my laundry, and so forth.

Your comment made me realize how desperately others need us, particularly our children (even grown children) to give them an example and encourage them. The things they want so desperately to improve in their lives, can be had if only they had someone working alongside them, achieving it herself.

I've always wanted my children to have good success in certain things, and not only character and organization. The skills I wanted them to have, I know I must develop myself, and they will see that it can be done. It can be discouraging if, while mother insists that the children be punctual, be polite, finish jobs, develop talents, etc., the mother doesn't have the control over her own self to do it. Her example helps them accomplish so much!

Serena said...

I have a recent practical example of this principle. We moved a few months ago to a new area. After we were here for a few weeks, I was struggling so much since I didn't know anyone. My husband had started back to university to get his degree and was making friends and having fellowship on a daily basis. When he realized how difficult if was for me, he decided we would make it a priority to find a fellowship we could be a part of as a family. We are Messianic believers and so we wanted a fellowship that would support us in that way. We found one in the same city as the university my husband attends. The first time we visited we felt at home and like it was family. It is a very small fellowship and there are only a total of 4 families right now and a middle-aged single lady. I am the only woman who is a stay at home mom, home-educates, wears dresses and also covers my head. I was quite apprehensive about how I would be accepted and the difficulties that could come in the situation. I determined that it was more important to be who I am called to be and to just walk it out and to be careful in what I say to not come across as "judging." I have now found out that these women are being challenged by my life. The youngest woman is now thinking of being a stay at home mom and home-educating. The other 2 married women are evaluating their dress. A vivid example is that last Friday night we decided to do a "lock-in" where we would all stay all night to fellowship with each other (we usually don't get home until 1-2am on Friday nights as it is since we enjoy each other's fellowship so much). I dressed as usual in my long skirts and headcovering, since I am very comfortable with that and would be uncomfortable any other way. When I walked in the door, one of the ladies started apologizing to me for her dress. She was wearing jeans, as were the other women. I hadn't said a word or even acted as if I had noticed her dress (since it wasn't unusual for her) so was quite surprised when she started apologizing to me. I just made light comments about my skirt being comfortable for me and that I don't even own any jeans. I realized that Father is using me to convict them in this area and that I just need to go on as He originally showed me. It has been a real encouragement to me. After all, it is His work to do in other people. If I am asked the reason for what I do and why, I don't hesitate to give the truth spoken in love about it, but I don't have to convert anyone. Thank you for this encouraging topic.
Love and shalom,