Teaching Kids to Battle Giants (and to Build Character)

About two months ago our family was in the backyard doing some gardening maintenance. We noticed that a certain very large bush had died. My husband asked The Innovator and Renaissance Man to dig it out and remove it. Yes! the boys exclaimed. Shovels! Dirt! Man jobs! They were in heaven.

But as they began digging and digging (and digging…) around the bush, reality set in. This was a tough job!  It was going to take muscle and perseverance to get this stubborn, well-established bush out of our yard.

They took turns whacking away at this woody beast, all the while under their dad’s careful instruction: “Dig down deep, a little bit away from the base! That’s right…  go really deep so that you get the roots.” The shoveling, grunting and all-around man sounds became louder and more intense.

As the battle raged on, my daughter and I dropped our gardening tools and came over to see all the commotion. We watched the boys, obviously tired and wanting to quit, digging, plowing and shoveling with all of their might. We cheered for them: “Go, boys! You got this! Come on—only a little bit more!”

It was a beautiful display of perseverance and determination—character traits that we’d talked about during our character training time in school. That may have been where the boys gathered the concept, but here is where the real learning was taking place.

Character Growth=God Sightings

When my kids ask me to pray that they’d have more patience or humility (or another character trait), I always tell them to keep a look out for God-sightings.

“God wants to develop this character in you,” I say. “He is faithful to respond to our prayers for help. So don’t be surprised when he presents you with situations where you will have the chance to practice this character trait.” I share this with them because I want them to see that, yes, God does want to help them grow in Christ-likeness, but that they are ultimately responsible for their actions and for this change in their lives.

God presents us with the crossroads situation, and then we need to dig deep and make the choice toward godly character instead of sin. In fact, God presents us with these crossroad situations time and time again until we can learn the lesson and establish new habits.

Absolutely the Holy Spirit gives us the power to make the right choice in times of temptation, but ultimately, our God is a gentleman and will not force the character change on us. He simply places us in the circumstance, gives us the power to make the right choice, and stands back to see if we take Him up on the opportunity for change.

What may God be doing in your life to perfect and grow your character? Are you working with him or against him as he puts you in these situations?