I’d barely put dinner on the table when I noticed my then pre-teen son, Matt, at the stove preparing to grill a quesadilla.
“Uh, Son,” I said. “What are you doing?”
He shrugged. “I just like the way I cook better.”
Oh, really? I knew that cooking was never my thing, but providing meals came with the territory of family life. After thinking it over, though, a thought struck me: If Matt liked to cook so much, why not let him?
I did, and Matt has developed excellent cooking skills for a 14-year-old.
Scripture tells us that the body of Christ is uniquely constructed with many vital parts. We tend to limit this truth to adults, but it also includes children and their special callings. The fun part for parents is that we get to nurture our children in their gifts, giving them opportunities to develop what God has placed inside them.
Our older daughter loves babies, so we’ve encouraged her to volunteer in the church nursery. Our youngest daughter shows signs of athletic prowess, so we teach her the value of fair play.
In Matt’s case, we learn with him as he creates new recipes and experiments with others. And like most teens, Matt struggles sometimes with balancing school with the pursuit of his passions. He prefers to grill hamburgers than study math.
So we encourage him to dream bigger than what he sees in the present. Maybe God is calling him to be a chef someday, but what if he’s meant to own the restaurant, too? Studying, then, becomes more palatable when he realizes he can’t run a restaurant without understanding wages, taxes and gratuities.
As they discover their gifts, children need to learn humility and servanthood. Operating in our gifts isn’t about ego trips; it’s about service. Think of how fruitful kids would be in their pursuits if they learned to apply the oft-quoted principle found in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Matt has found ways to share his talents with others. He’s made dinner for his grandparents, whipped up cookies for guests and grilled chicken for his classmates.
Recently, one of our neighbors challenged Matt to cook for her family, and he jumped at the chance. They scheduled an evening, and Matt gave her a shopping list. As a wary mom, I suggested he supply just the main dish — but no! — Matt prepared everything: salad, bread, chicken, and apple crisp. I’m humbled to think of where this gift and Matt’s servant’s heart might take him someday.
Much of what we purposefully expose our children to falls into the category of a well-rounded education. Children may play tennis or take ballet, but they may not be in that activity for life.
My parents encouraged my adolescent dream of becoming an actress. I shudder to think of all the classes, auditions and low-budget performances they faithfully endured before I changed my mind. Yet years later, when I started writing about God’s work in peoples’ lives, my parents were back in their supporting roles, cheering me on with each published piece.
It’s not about us. And it’s not really about them. It’s about God and His will for our children. He knows how their gifts can best be used for His glory.
God reminded Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knew our children, too. When we see evidence of their gifts, we can prayerfully point our kids toward the Creator, encourage them to step out in faith and watch Him faithfully complete all that He began.
Julie Carobini trains her children in Ventura, Calif.
This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
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