My daughter turned three this week. By all worldly standards she is grossly behind in every way…from her height and weight to her speech and language to her fine motor skills. She has developmental delays in every area. But over the past year, she has acquired more than one hundred signs, learned more than one hundred words, gotten used to wearing glasses, learned to run, begun to feed herself, and gained numerous other skills she didn’t have last fall. So is she a success or a failure? Who decides?
Once, a good friend gently pointed out to me that my third grade son didn’t know his math facts. This was no surprise to me as learning them was not so high on my son’s to-do list, and our curriculum didn’t really drill math facts. I shrugged off the comment but later reflected on the timetables that homeschool parents often impose on themselves and each other…reading independently by the end of the first grade (one of my daughters was in second), mastery of the times tables by the end of third grade (one daughter was in fifth), potty training by age two (my kids were all three). Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do it to our kids?
There’s a song I love on one of my newly three-year-old daughter’s Signing Time DVDs. One of the verses says:
Sometimes I see you stuck
For such a long time.
A daily nothing new
Pretend I don’t mind
With lists of things you’ll never do
Until somehow you do
And you do—you do—you shine.
The song goes on to say:
And Sammy will do what Sammy will do when Sammy is ready to do it.
And Trevor will do what Trevor will do when Trevor is ready to do it.
And Lucy will do what Lucy will do when Lucy is ready to do it.
And they’ll do…it in their own time.
(From “Shine.” Written by Rachel Coleman. Signing Time Music, www.signingtime.com.)
We do ourselves, our children, and each other a great disservice when we impose man-made timetables on one another. In 1 Corinthians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “’Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV’84). All is grace. Whether we are ahead of or “behind” somebody’s external timetable is irrelevant. Even the things we work to achieve are achieved because God allows them to be.
Aren’t you grateful God has no timetable for our sanctification process? That He is patient and persistent with our growth? That He believes in us and by Christ’s blood sees us as He intends us to be rather than as we are? That to Him we SHINE. Not that He doesn’t push and challenge and stretch us. Not that He doesn’t care when we fail. He does. But He surely doesn’t compare us to each other or to some heavenly developmental chart.
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. In it a landowner hires men early in the morning to work for him for a set amount of money. Throughout the day he finds more men without work and sends them into the vineyard to work for him as well. That evening the landowner calls the workers in and pays them, beginning with the last one hired and ending with the first. Those who were hired first began to grumble because they were paid the exact same amount as those hired last, despite working many more hours. The landowner says to them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same pay as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:13-15 NIV’84). Jesus ends His story saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16 NIV’84).
Let’s do ourselves a favor and throw away the timetables. Sure we need to monitor our kids’ progress and get them help when they show true signs of delay. We must ensure they make adequate progress each year and that we meet state homeschooling requirements. But we also need to do away with the judgment and guilt that come from these outside standards. We should trust ourselves and value our children as the unique individuals God created them to be. We need to let our kids SHINE…in their own time.
How can you seek this week to see your children as Christ sees them rather than comparing them to other people’s standards? How can you encourage a friend to do the same? How can you resist comparing yourselves to others around you and be grateful for the work God is doing in your life—in His own time?