My elder son, not the best artist but one that can see the image in his mind whether he can draw it or not, was the first to wade through these waters. He is very in tune with politics and can usually grasp the irony found in political cartoons, but is sometimes not as good at understanding how those opposed to his own views would see humor in his beliefs. Since the assignment requires interpretation of events, symbols, and documents surrounding a particular period in history, he did okay with the concepts and tried his best to develop images that conveyed his particular understanding of them. But again – not an artist.
And then we had a year off.
My daughter is the resident artist in our home. Her depictions of the political unrest of this particular historical period were carefully and thoughtfully considered, and more skillfully executed than many other students. She, unlike the boys, found a closer connection to this particular teacher as well. So – interest and connection lead to concern and desire to succeed.
And another year off.
Which, finally, brings me me to my younger boy. Humor he understands. As is typical of most youngest children, he tries hard to make others see the silliness that he sees. Being a middle school boy, however, means that his sense of humor has yet to develop the subtlety and sophistication of a true comedian and is more on the level of – oh, say -Will Ferrell. I’m hoping that he will eventually rise to a comedic intelligence more on the level of Robin Williams, but that hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, irony is fairly lost on him so far. And sadly, the most kind thing I can say about his artistic ability is that it is reminiscent of a hieroglyphic code of some kind.
So this morning as he was trying to put the finishing touches on a political cartoon he had drawn depicting a fight for racial equality, I got tickled. The idea of the opposing sides, the bravery of a leader facing a rioting and bigoted crowd with flags unfurled and waving defensively, the rejoicing of those who were formerly oppressed as they cheered and jumped into the air unable to contain their joy- they were all there.
If you look with my mama-eyes.
If you looked with the eyes of any other human, you would have seen lots of stick figures carrying sticks that held roughly rectangular shapes bearing some vaguely recognizable symbols on one side of the image. On the other side of the image you would see stick figures, faces darkened with pencil smudges, shouting, “yay!” And centered between the two sides the leader with stick feet precariously balanced on a box, shouting words of freedom.
Looking at his picture, I felt a sense of unexpected joy bubbling up from somewhere deep inside me. Having walked with all three children through this assignment and remembering each of their responses to it probably better than they do themselves, I was suddenly and profoundly aware of the unique differences in my children.
These differences are so much deeper than their appearances, their talents, their personalities, yet they are somehow an assimilation of all of those and even more. These three children are made of the same DNA, raised in the same environment, and yet they are so very different, each uniquely designed for the calling God has created just for them.
I see glimpses of their future selves in moments like these. I am not naive and do not see them without trials to overcome and weaknesses in their personalities and abilities. But I do see those trials and weaknesses as opportunities through which they will draw closer to their Heavenly Father, leaning on His embrace and experiencing His grace and mercy. I know that He has created each of my children with the particular needs and weaknesses that will minister to their unique spirits, calling them into close relationship with Him.
I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that He has designed into us even our faults in a way that brings relationship, fills the deepest longings of our hearts, and brings us the inconceivable peace that comes from trusting Him and being obedient to Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith.
And here again is a picture of God as an artist – a writer this time – who understands the complexity of writing flaws into the epic heroes He is creating. He writes the scenes for each new day and develops a depth in each character that is, frankly, impossible for any human writer. Even Homer had minor characters.
But to God, none of us are minor. We are each fully and beautifully developed with depth and infinite variety. So, I challenge all the moms out there to see the flaws in your children as openings for God’s beautiful presence in their lives.
And I challenge all the teachers out there to see with mama-eyes today. And in this week of teacher appreciation – I challenge you to find appreciation for your students. Perhaps that child that you find most difficult, the one you complain about, the one you tell your favorite students to avoid, the one who challenges your concepts of the reasons that students become friends with one another, is not trying to offend you personally, but is trying desperately to show you a way to pray for God’s intervention in his or her life.
Please accept the challenge. I promise you will never regret it.