About 20 minutes after we put the girls to bed last night, my oldest was standing in front of me, tears streaming down her face explaining that she couldn't go to sleep because she kept thinking about some scary stuff someone at school had told her. God has gifted my oldest with an amazing imagination. She can draw entire comics, write extremely creative stories and make up song lyrics on the spot. I can send the girls out to play with the neighbors and with nothing more than a rock and a bucket, my oldest will create an elaborate plot for the girls to follow as they play. I am in awe of this gift that God has given her.
But, sometimes, that gift can take a scary turn. Because she has such an active imagination, she's extremely open to suggestion, and the time before she goes to sleep can become a terror fest for her. She'll start to dwell on something that someone told her. Lying there in the dark, she can create situations in her mind that are terrifying. This usually ends either in nightmares later in the night or, as it did last night, with her standing in front of us crying because she's scared to go to sleep.
For many parents, the scenario I've just described is a familiar one. It's also an extremely teachable moment. So, we need to put aside our frustration at what may seem like "silly" fears and teach our children how to stop letting what God intended for good be used in a way He never intended.
Psalm 34:14 tells us "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." Within this short, little verse is the key to putting our kids on the path to using whatever gift God has given them for good. Now, my daughter is not "evil" because she lets her imagination get carried away, but the things she is dwelling on that scare her are "evil" because they rob her of the peace that God promised her.
God has given each of our children talents that they can use for Him or that they can use in other ways that aren't pleasing to him. The key to teaching our children to use their talents for good is teaching them to recognize when they are straying from what God intended and then teaching them to seek and pursue peace when using their gifts. Sounds easy, right? It's easy to talk about, but even as adults, we struggle with this. Teach your kids a simple process to recognize when they are letting their gifts and talents serve the world instead of God.
- Talk with your kids about the gifts and talents God has given them. Ask them how they think they can use those gifts and talents for God. Then, ask them if they can think of any way that they could use those gifts and talents in ways that aren't pleasing to God.
- Give your kids this simple process to follow: Stop, Ask, Pray, Replace. It works like this. Whenever they are in a situation where they find themselves using their gifts and talents in a way that either scares them or that they aren't sure is pleasing to God, they should Stop what they are doing. Next, they should Ask this question: Is what I'm doing pleasing to God? If the answer is yes, they can keep doing what they are doing. If the answer is no, then they move on to step 3. They should Pray and give their gift or talent to God. They should ask God to remove whatever fear their use of their talent has brought them and ask God to show them how to use their gift for Him. The last step is Replace. They should try to replace what they are doing with something else that is pleasing to God.
- This process looked like this last night with my oldest. We asked her to identify the problem, which was that she had let her imagination run away with her, which led her to worry about things that weren't likely to happen. We talked about how that wasn't what God intended for her to do with her imagination. We prayed with her and asked God to take away her fear and to help her not to let her imagination create fear. We also asked that God would replace her fear with peace. Then, we gave her something else to think about. We told her to build the best ice cream sundae ever in her head until she fell asleep.
The next time your son or daughter gets caught in a spiral of using a gift or talent that God has given them in a way that's not pleasing to God, help them follow the Stop, Ask, Pray, Replace method to find peace and to use their gifts for God.