A few months ago experts found evidence that behind an average battle scene painted by a man named Vasari (who is actually famous for his writing, not art) is a work by Leonardo da Vinci. For centuries now, people have walked by this average mural not realizing a fabulous masterpiece had been painted over to create the current painting. Someone though saw something others missed and did the research to find the masterpiece hidden below what is obvious to the eye.
Most of us go through life like those thousands of people who walked by that painting for centuries. We see only what is visible to the eye – and sometimes even miss that opportunity. If we don’t teach our kids to break that cycle and learn to look below what is on the surface, their lives will not be nearly as rich and godly as they could be.
You may believe in this world which is often filled with ugliness, horror and ungodliness, a little ignorance of what lies below the surface may actually be a good thing for your kids. In some ways, you are right. Very young children are exposed too early and in ways that aren’t healthy for them spiritually to the ungodly sides of the world. But there are times you should want even the youngest of children to look beyond what they can see with their eyes. As your kids approach the teen years it becomes vital they know how to find the potential “ugly/ungodly” behind what looks wonderful.
So what are the things your kids can find behind the obvious if they are trained how to find it? There are a lot of things, but here are some I think will have potentially the greatest impact on their lives:
- People are often very different in their hearts from what their appearance may suggest. This can be both positive and negative. A child who looks very different from your child or from the children with whom your child is normally close may actually be the best friend to help your child grow and flourish. If your children are tempted to ignore someone because of the way he looks, they will miss a life of richness gained only by learning from those who are not like us. On the other hand, the beautiful, popular people of the world may not have kind, loving, godly hearts to match. Isn’t it interesting the only real physical description we have of Jesus was that he was not particularly appealing to the eye? Perhaps God wanted Jesus to be the best lesson that physical attractiveness is not an accurate indication of the heart. (Isaiah 53:2) Your kids need to learn to look beyond a person’s appearance and try to discover the true heart of the person. They need to learn to discover if the people in their lives will help them grow towards or away from God.
- God has given them gifts and talents to use in service to Him that may not be obvious at first. Your kids need to learn to look beyond the surface not only in others, but also in themselves. Teach them to explore and find the gifts God may have hidden in them. This is particularly important for kids who have one or two obvious talents or who have low self esteem and believe they have no gifts or talents. Help them look below their own surface and experiment with lots of different ways of serving God. More than likely they will discover gifts they would never have discovered otherwise.
- Not everything that is taught as truth actually is truth. Your children will be exposed to many people who will tell them they have the “truth” about a lot of things. They may be teachers, leaders, celebrities or even friends, relatives and preachers. Many of those supposed truths are not only false, but will lead your child to making ungodly decisions that can eventually pull them away from God. While you want your kids to respect adults and those in authority, they need to learn to check any “truth” against the Bible. When they differ, your kids need to know to always trust the Bible over anything some person tells them. Teach your older children about logical fallacies. This, along with strong Bible knowledge, will help them dig below the surface of what sounds like a truth to see if it is really a lie from Satan wrapped in a pretty package.
- Things that look like they will bring happiness may bring grief instead. Five minutes of commercials will convince your children lots of things will make them happy. Their peers may convince them getting high or drunk or having lots of premarital sex will make them happy. Their bosses when they are old enough to work will tell them sacrificing everything for their job and money will make them happy. Your kids need to learn to look below the surface of the happiness of those who have everything the world tells them will make them happy and see the heart misery that comes with many of those things. They need to search for those things God knows will bring godly contentment. Those are the things that will allow them to experience joy in all circumstances. (James 1:2)
Teaching your children to look beyond the obvious to that which is hidden is a valuable skill. So how do you help your children practice finding the hidden without also raising kids who are super critical and judgmental? It’s possible to teach them discernment and looking beyond the obvious in some fun ways. In my next post, I will share a few creative ways to help your children practice looking below the surface.