So far in my short journey into parenthood, I have struggled in particular with one of my children. Although this child is extremely bright and cheerful, I don’t understand many of his/her (used to protect anonymity!) choices, I don’t “get” his/her motivations or reactions. Because of this, I’m often frustrated with this child. It seems life for this child is made up of me disciplining him/her over and over again for the same offenses.
Thankfully, last week I received some much-needed perspective on my relationship with this child, thanks to my third grader’s homework. Every school night, my third grader brings home a reading sheet with four quadrants, each containing a list of interesting words and phrases that he’s required to read to me because the next day he’ll have to read them to his teacher. When he reads the words to his teacher, she has him stop after each phrase in the first quadrant and look directly at her eyes for 3 seconds before reading the next word. So, every evening when he reads the words to me, he does the same: after each phrase or word in the first quadrant, he looks into my eyes while counting to three.
At first I resisted this looking-into-my-eyes aspect of the homework. I’m a get-it-done kind of girl. Just read the words, enough with the soul-gazing. But it’s now grown on me. A lot. I’ve realized that I don’t look at my children very often. I mean, sure, I look to make sure that their hair isn’t sticking up, that they’re wearing tennis shoes on P.E. day, and that they’re doing the chores that I asked them to do. My looking is always for a purpose, an evaluative purpose.
But when I look into my third grader’s eyes in the brief seconds after he reads, I don’t look for something. I just look. I think this might be what the Lord told Samuel to do when he said, “look not on the outward appearance, for the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). I have known this scripture since my seminary days. But I don’t know that I’ve really been doing it, even when I think I have. For example, in my struggling to understand that one child, I thought I had been looking on the heart as I’ve been trying to see and understand motivations, reactions, and so on. But even that has been for evaluative purposes. As I look into my son’s clear blue eyes during reading homework, I see love. I see a child who I love. I see a child God loves. Will this change my other child’s actions? No, but I hope this new perspective helps me in my ability to change my reactions.
Have you had experiences looking “on the heart” that have helped you in your life or in your relationships? How have you changed your perspective on others?
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