I was a fourth grade teacher at Harvest Christian School in Riverside, California for six years before moving into pastoral ministry. Having those 9 & 10-year olds with me day in and day out for nine months of the year taught me a few things about investing in people for the long haul. Looking back seventeen years to that first classroom, I can now see that what each of those 147 students carried as a destiny was often hidden behind a variety of external circumstances, behavior issues, personality defects, and bad habits.
On the last day of school for each of those years, after everyone was pumped full of sugar and pizza, I would sit the whole classroom down in the final hours of the school year. Many students were seated with their parents as I would wander from student to student, speaking about them and blessing them. I would address the outstanding character traits I perceived in them, touch upon the liabilities that their little personalities carried, and tell them about what they had the potential to become. I would weave in funny memories and celebrate outstanding achievements from the past year together. It was a touching moment for me, for the parents, and for the students. A whole academic year of relationship boiled down to a few minutes of a verbal blessing.
I am amazed as I watch some of them growing up on social media. For many of them, who they are becoming rings true with what I could see in them as little fourth graders. On the other hand, some of them have taken detours from the places I know they are destined for. I pray that someone else comes along to water the seed in them and point them back to where the Father has planned for them to go. Of course, there are some students that I missed altogether. I missed the gold hidden in them. Some of their Facebook and Instagram posts surprise me: They have reached heights and accomplished goals I never could have imagined for them. What a blessing!
In order to speak life over those students in those moments I had to place a proverbial pair of polarized sunglasses on. If I didn't have the right filter on I could easily have let the glaring bad habits and destructive character traits speak a different destiny than the one God had planted in them while they were being knit together in their mother's womb. Without the right filter, I could easily receive them for who they weren't instead of receiving and blessing them from who they truly were.
As you go through your day and encounter people, what kind of glasses do you wear? You come across the same sales people at the stores you spend time in , you meet with fellow employees at work, you live with your spouse, children, and other family members, and you spot complete strangers. Do you receive those people for who they aren't, or do you receive people for who they truly are? Do their bad habits and faults hinder you from seeing and beholding them for who God created them to be?
Image Bearer Lenses
In the creation account in Genesis 1 God reveals a set of lenses with which we can view every person- Image Bearers Lenses. God says, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us...” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
All of the people you encounter are made in the image of God: They bear His likeness and find their source in Him. They aren't the sum of their circumstances, they're Image Bearers. Their bad habits and personality defects are symptoms of our fallen world and they blur the Image of God they bear. Look beyond the surface to the source.
Whether you have a room full of fourth graders, a house full of offspring, an office full of comrades, or a store full of customers, put on your Image Bearer lenses. Start with a filter for honor and see the people around you for who they are, not for who they aren't. And then bless them from that vantage point.
Find Pastor Michael's additional blogposts & resources on this theme here:
A Goal for Honor