I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. Jeremiah 24:6
One of my childrens’ afternoon routines is a list of chores that they split each day. One of the chores is to wipe down and tidy the table in the living room. This also means throwing away any trash that always seems to make its way to this particular spot. Usually, my youngest child does pretty well with his chores. He wants to do them himself, he usually completes them as expected, but today, he did wipe down the table. But, he also failed to complete his chore, leaving the things that belonged on the table sitting in the middle of the living room floor instead.
“Honey, you didn’t finish with the table.”
“I can’t lift all that stuff, I just can’t do it!”
And my not so understanding response: “Well, then you might as well not do it at all….”
Certainly not a proud Mommy moment right there, huh?
As I watched my small little boy turn and hang his head in shame, I realized my blunder instantly. I had just told my son in so many words that his best was not good enough for me.
And this is only one example of my ability to tell my children they don’t measure up.
As my daughter writes her story slanted down one side of the page instead of in neat, straight lines. As she misses a period here, or a capital letter there. I tell her to start over, to take her time, that she is rushing, not doing her best. Telling her that her best right now is not good enough for me.
I do this with my teenager who has struggled with his grades all year. Letting him know that his now C-, well, it should really be a C by the end of the year. What’s with the minus? Telling him, “Sure, I know you are working hard and doing your best, but it’s not good enough for me.”
You did your best, but it wasn’t good enough.
You tried your best, but you are not smart enough.
You ran your best, but you were not fast enough.
By criticizing their attempts to do the best they can, I am uprooting whatever confidence they had. Tearing them down, until they turn away, hanging their head in shame and defeat.
He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Isaiah 42:4
According to the opening verses of Isaiah 42, this is what a servant of God does not do. A servant of a loving God. A servant of a God who knows our best is good enough to Him. Who loves us at our worst, even when we don’t deserve it.
As a servant of God, in the way I attempt to bring out the “best” in my children, am I really crushing the most tender reeds? Am I putting out the flames of creativity and potential inside of them? Simply because their best isn’t good enough for me?
You are precious to me. You are honored and I love you. Isaiah 43:4
My smallest boy finally lifted his shameful head to finish his last chore. And as I walked into the bathroom, I saw once again the mess of items taken off the counter and left on the bathroom floor. This time instead of telling him, “Why even try?” I put that little boy in my lap, looked him in the eyes as much as he would let me, and said, “Thank you. Thank you for cleaning the counter. I know the other things are too heavy for you to pick back up. But you did your best, and I love you.”
Yes, my son. Yes, my daughter. Your best is good enough for me.