Impactful Praise

I wasn't feeling well coming off my shift at Dutch this morning.  I told my supervisor at BGC that I might need to go home early because I was in pain.

I texted a best friend and told him the same thing.  
"You'll be fine," he encouraged me.  "The kids need you.  You should go."

I knew he was right.  I love my job enough any way to tough it out.

It was a pretty rough shift, though.  I had a migraine the whole time, some of the kids were being difficult, I had to yell to be heard, and plus, the continuing pain wasn't very fun to deal with.
My supervisor was kind enough to let me go home an hour early and as I was grabbing my things to go, one of my 3rd graders came up to me.

"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Home," I replied.
"I don't want you to leave yet."
"I'm sorry, but I don't feel well.  I'll see you tomorrow, though, okay?"
"Okay," he said, and started to walk away.

To anyone who has children, siblings or has worked with kids, have you ever noticed that certain look they get when they are trying to give off the vibe of not caring about something but you can clearly see that deep down, they actually do?  This kid had that look written all over his face.
I had this sudden urge to call him back, and when he came to stand in front of me, I put my arm on his shoulder and said, "Hey, I want you to know how much I appreciate you listening to me in gym and homeroom today.  You set a great example for the other kids and it makes my day to know that you care about what I ask you to do."

He just stared up at me, standing very still and looking very stunned.  And I knew why.

He hadn't been very well-behaved today.  In fact, he was probably one of the kids who was the most difficult in the groups I supervised.  But he has a special place in my heart and I believe, with everything in me, that young souls need to be encouraged and praised for the times they do well because how else will they know - or desire - to continue doing good if they don’t get recognized for it?  But I took the one example I could think of him behaving well today to praise him for it, and I know that impacted him more than all the times I had to reprimand him for not listening.

As I drove home from work, with the image of his blank face still in my mind, I realized that perhaps the other reason he seemed to stunned by my praise and gratefulness was because he may not hear those kinds of words coming from an adult in his life very frequently.  And my heart resonated with that so deeply.

It also reminded me of something too…
So often we can clearly see the times we’ve screwed up and fallen short of God’s wise guidance in our lives but don’t acknowledge the times when we have freely chosen to follow His Word.  But you know what?  I think it’s the other way around for Him.  No, He’s not turning a blind eye to our sins.  He is a just God, yes, nevertheless because of His perfect sacrifice, He picks out the moments when we have followed and yielded to His perfect plan…and what does He do?

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.”
- Deuteronomy 28:1

And I just think that’s such a peaceful promise to remember.

I feel like a lot of people - probably the greater percentage of humanity, honestly - has this terrifying image of a big man in the sky who's always angry and on the lookout for people who screw their lives up so he can punish them for their sins and laugh at their pain.  

But the God I know is so far from such a brute.  

He is sovereign and holy and Someone to greatly fear.  Not out of being scared to make Him angry, but fear to fall short of His glory.  He is more than just that.  He is loving.  He is faithful.  He is kind.  He is gentle.  And these aren't character traits all divided by percentages.  He is ALL loving.  He is ALL faithful.  He is ALL kind.  He is ALL gentle.  Always, all the time.  And He has our best best best interest at the forefront of every pen stroke He writes in the story of our lives.  
He has plans for our futures - to give us hope and blessings.  And no matter how many times we fall flat on our faces and seemingly "take the wrong turn", He's there to meet us.  He's there to help us back onto our feet.  He's there to say, "Come on, beloved, you've got this.  I'm here for you.  I designed this road to grow you and strengthen your heart, soul and mind.  Don't count the times you've stumbled.  Count the steps you've taken and how many feet you've moved forward.  Look behind you only to see how far you've come.  And look ahead for the fullness of joy that awaits you.  Come on.  I only see your beauty and worth.  Don't stop now."

The kids may have needed me, like my friend had said, but gosh, I think God used them in my life today in a very special way.

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