I’ve been thinking about how Jesus used His words to draw someone’s attention off of who they were to who they could become. It reminded me of a quote I read in “Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World. Zig Ziglar explains how “words paint pictures in a child’s mind and then his mind goes to work to complete the pictures.” This was powerfully true at a turning point in my life just after my sixteenth birthday.
It was a rainy night and I only had five minutes left before curfew. There were twelve miles between home and my boyfriend’s house and I didn’t want to get grounded. It had been raining and I was driving too fast. I gripped the steering wheel and turned it sharply to avoid crossing the yellow line of that familiar curve, which caused my little Datsun B210 to spin out of control before hitting a ditch and flipping over. The sound of crashing glass and metal filled the air as my car tumbled over and over in slow motion. Finally it came to a halt. Within 10 minutes, the police and paramedics arrived and found my car lying on its side with the driver’s side crushed and most of the windshield gone. I was no longer in the car. The paramedics searched the field where my car had landed, but my body was no where to be found.
When my car stopped rolling, I forced the passenger door open, climbed out, ran to the highway and flagged down a car. The man driving took me back to my boyfriend’s house where they would then bring me to the hospital. My mom met us there where she was greeted by a police officer who described the accident and the damage to the car. It was completely totaled! Fortunately, my life was not.
Later that night, my mom took my hand and said, “It’s a miracle you are alive. God must have a plan for your life because He spared it tonight.”
Evidence of the accident was minimal, only a few bruises across my forehead and nose. However, the evidence of God’s hand was clear. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, I wasn’t thrown through the windshield, there were 2 liter glass coke bottles in the car that never hit me. Yet I walked away nearly unharmed. Not a Christian at the time, I don’t know what I believed about God, but I believed my mother’s words of encouragement, “God must have a plan for your life.”
During the year after my accident, my mind would be challenged to complete the picture her words had painted. Like the rain clouds that hovered over the road I traveled that night, clouds of depression hovered over me. The road ahead brought many hazards. A trickle of self-doubt led to overwhelming feelings of insecurity. Teen-age disappointments and heart break led to despair and an aching hole in my heart that couldn’t be filled. So I numbed it with alcohol. By the time I was nineteen, my courage to keep living was gone. I was desperately looking for an escape. Why not end it all? Yet, I knew I couldn’t. “Who am I to take my life?” I asked myself as I remembered my mom’s words reminding me how God had rescued me. So instead of searching for a way out, I began to search for Him.
Like a paintbrush, her words drew a picture of hope on the canvas of my heart. “God must have a plan for you.” In search of His plan, I found courage to move through the storm of depression and come to know Him in a personal and powerful relationship where darkness was replaced by Light and despair was redeemed with hope. Years later I discovered that sharing my journey would be part of God’s plan to encourage others in theirs.
You also hold a paintbrush. With strokes of confidence and assurance, you help your child (or someone else you love) believe that God uniquely designed her with a purpose. When she faces disappointments and failure, as we all do, she can recall your words that have assured her of God’s plan for her life, “plans to prosper her, not to harm her, plans to give her a future and a hope.” Jeremiah. 29:11. When your child gets rejected by friends, doesn’t make the soccer team or pass his driving test, you can remind him with your words of encouragement that you believe in him no matter what; that you will never give up on him, even when he gives up on himself.
If we respond to our child who consistently forgets his lunch bag at home, “I knew you weren’t responsible enough to remember it,” we crush his confidence. He may grow up wondering if he has what it takes to succeed. If we respond with patience and encouragement by telling him, “I am disappointed you forgot your lunch but I know you can be responsible. Let’s figure out a way to help you remember,” we communicate, “You have what it takes, and I want to help you become all that God created you to be!”
I wish this came easily because we just want to be good moms. Honestly I have to really think about it and work at it. I catch myself not saying things how I wish I had. I try not to beat myself up about it anymore but quickly go back to that child (or my husband or a friend) to apologize and ask for a do-over. Then I say what I wished I’d said the first time.
I believe “God’s plan for my life” is for me to be my kids and my husband’s biggest encourager. I know He saved me first to draw me into an intimate relationship with Jesus. Then He poured His love into me through His Spirit, His hope into me through His Word. But then He called me and commissioned me to give away what He’d given me – right here, right now. In everyday moments where I have the opportunity to see a need and speak right into those empty places with His words of hope.
Will you join me with your paintbrush today? Let’s ask God to fill our hearts with His words of encouragement so that we can take those words and paint a picture of hope on the canvas of someone’s heart today!