Rembrandt, The Money Changer
”Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” --Aristotle
Self-government begins with the way we treat our children. If we pay attention to their needs, feed hungry babies, touch and south little ones, speak in gentle tones, exercise patience and constant training every day, all day long, then our little ones are immersed in the oxygen of our ideals. The way we treat our children, and monitor their own emotional needs and care for their overall well-being established a basis for them to have strength and a mental picture of what it looks like to see an adult who behaves in a civilized and self-controlled way. Our children take in, almost by osmosis, the ways that we choose to live and exercise our own values through the ways we related to our days, moment by moment.
What we practice with them--honor, respect, kindness, gracious words, gentle and patient help and instruction, are the very ways our children can begin to emulate us. On Monday, I spoke of children who were all over their mother. They had no boundaries, direction or parameters--and they were both hungry and sleepy, so they fidgeted more. If a mama cares for her children's present needs all the time every day, their little nerves will not be frayed and they will not be overstimulated and they will be able to hold it together better.
Second, though, preparing my children ahead of time helped them to know what to expect. "Mommy is taking you to a big girl (boy) coffee shop. I will give you a little drink from your mug, (sipppie cup), and a few bites of cereal of fruit I have brought along. You can play with the little lego set I brought or color with pencils. Which one do you prefer? We will be here for a half hour and I would like you to use your big girls manners--sit with me, play or color and drink quietly as there are lots of grown ups trying to study and read. Can you do that with me today? I will be right with you and we will play when we are through." (Whatever is age appropriate--if you have a baby, feed them before you get there and change their diaper--or if a toddler, don't push them--bring treat, blankie, whatever and attend to their needs, as often times parents are the ones who do not lead their children to security and comfort.)
Building a Self-image of a Self-governed child
Rembrandt became a master of light and a detailed painter, exquisite faces by training, practice, and years and years of painting, over and over and over again--practice. And so it is with any craft, skill, degree or accomplishment.
However, it is also true of character and a Christian testimony--the character that is habituated to improving, developing integrity by practice, stretching to work hard, to do the best, to exceed expectations comes from daily practice and personal integrity. This does not happen immediately overnight, but is developed over a long period of time where the values and habits are shaped little by little. Those whose ideals are set high and aim, each day to pursue those ideals will have the opportunity to become excellent in any field.
This comes from an inner grid, the way one learns to see life and expects himself to live. We called this "self-government," when we trained excellence of character into the very fiber of our children's souls--a vision for what they could become..
I have been surrounded by mediocrity, compromise and substandard Christians in several public arenas and personal situations lately. I have asked myself, with the image of the living God imprinted upon my very being, shouldn't I, and all true believers, be able to call forth excellence and integrity as a reflection of Him in my life.
"As a man sows, so shall he reap." Galatians
Yet, excellence and integrity is a personal issue. One can only become this way through a personal commitment, a vision of oneself, and a decision that says,
"Regardless of what is happening around me, I will be the best I can be, work the hardest I am able, pursue the highest standards--especially for my personal life where no one but God sees--because I have been bought with a price and have His Holy Spirit residing within. So my worship of Him requires that I pursue the standard of His Holiness as an affirmation of His reality in my life."
Whether as a mother training the character of children, filling their minds with excellent writers, artists, thinkers, or as a woman being a steward of every aspect of her life, one can only become excellent by stretching, determining to obey His still small voice and then using every resource to pursue bringing His light and imprint upon this world.
This labor of excellence, personally and in the lives of our children, may/will take many long years--but if we are not committed to pursuing whatever it takes to build this excellence, then what hope does our future have--and even more, how can we represent Him, who has given all?
Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." We are called to become leaders that others can follow and emulate.With every year of faith, there should be more of Him reflecting through our lives. It is not a choice, it is a call on our lives. We cannot say, "I am a Christian, but I think I will make "c's or d's" in my character choices. We aim high because the love of Christ compels us.
More in the months ahead--but have just been pondering--why are so many believers falling so short of His best?
I am not talking about being a pharisee, gathering Christian law for people to follow, but instead understanding our heritage of our capacity with which we were born. We are made in the likeness of the living God and have potential of exercising strength and influence far beyond what we can imagine. We should expect as royalty--children of the most high God--to be able to develop and strengthen to become competent, strong, vibrant human beings. When we set our standards by contemporary culture, e have set our standards far too low.
More to follow soon!