A Divine Appointment

by Wess Stafford

You know, our children often get such a raw deal in so many things in life. When they are born, they're so tiny, so helpless. They don't have much influence in the world of politics or business. It takes years before they can start making any kind of material contribution to the world. But there's one area where kids are on equal footing with adults: time. Every one of us has to work and live within the same time parameters as the next person, regardless of age. There are 24 hours in a day, every day of the year, in every country, all around the world. Thankfully, we haven't figured out how to steal time away from those weaker than us or else children would get the short end of the stick in that deal, too. As adults, we do have impact over the way children spend most of their time. But that may be a scary proposition. It's common for adults to try to pack as much as we can into every minute. From work to after-work activities, we have something going on virtually every minute. What disturbs me is that we have gotten so used to living that way that we are doing the same thing with our children's time. In our haste to make sure our children "get the most out of life," we cram their days full too. The week becomes a blur of school, sports practices, music lessons and-soon enough-part-time jobs. Kids rarely get the chance to be kids anymore. I realize I risk sounding like an "old fogy" here but I sure miss the days when kids spent hours in a world of make-believe. I fear that we have pushed our young ones so far that we may be literally stealing away their childhood and perhaps even doing irreparable damage to their young spirits. For example, U.S. News & World Report recently ran an eight-page cover story on what's gone wrong with kids' sports. It described how, on top of normal Little League baseball and Pop Warner football teams, a whole second level of turbo-charged sports called "travel teams" are now demanding even more of kids. As a result, a disturbing percentage of talented young athletes burn out and stop playing their sport altogether. And it doesn't just happen with sports, either. Some parents push their children so hard in academics that their children simply get tired of learningburned out on school. How much of their potential have we lost because of our own greed and desire to control? Young people simply were not made to be the fulfillment machines of adult wishes. They need time to breathe, to chase dragonflies, to imagine, to wonder and simply to relax. I'm not condoning laziness or inactivity in front of a television for hours on end. But a key part of growing up needs to be living our lives at a reasonable pace, don't you think? The saintly Dutch survivor of World War II concentration camps, Corrie ten Boom, once said, "If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy." What amazing insight! I believe Satan plays a bigger role in our busy lives than any of us want to admit. He thrives on destroying God's most precious creation-us. He wants to do all he can to separate us from each other and ultimately from our Creator. We pack our lives so full of junk that we forget the important things. All of a sudden, Satan is delighting in our busyness. So I made a promise to myself and to God years ago. First, I will remain committed to His plan for my lifeto spending time in His Word. Second, I'm committed to my family and setting aside time to spend with them. As the president of Compassion International, I never wanted to hear my daughters say, "Daddy, you cared so much about the children of the world that you forgot about us." So I promised to always make my family my priority. It would be easy to say "Hey, I've got over 700,000 children in our program. I have only two at home. My priority should be where the numbers are." But that's not how God works, is it? His entire plan of salvation is based on a personal relationship with each one of us-as individuals, not as a group. Our salvation cannot come en masse. It's a one-on-one relationship with our heavenly Father. And, I should note, a key ingredient to making that relationship work is time. In turn, if we want to have meaningful relationships with our children, it's going to require time. That may sound impossible in this day and age. Maybe it's unreasonable to expect to schedule hours a day with your child. But maybe quantity isn't as important as quality. I maintain that every child that comes across your path is a divine appointment. It's God giving you an opportunity to shape the future. When God places a child in your path-which is never an accident-you have a chance to build that child up with a kind word, a hug, a compliment. It may not seem like it means much now but a few well-placed words could make a huge difference in a child's life. Likewise, a few misplaced words can leave a lasting, negative impression on the sensitive spirit of a child. While having lunch with my friend Tim recently, we were discussing this idea that one negative comment can have such a tremendous impact on a person's life. He put down his sandwich and choked down the bite he had in his mouth. "That goofy grin." He said, with a bit of a catch in his throat. I waited for him to explain. "When I was 17," Tim said, "I was so proud of my high school graduation picture that I took it to work to show my boss. It was the first time I had ever worn a tuxedo. My family was very poor. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from neighbors or we bought them at yard sales. So, with absolute pride, I brought my graduation picture to the construction site where I was working so I could show it to my boss. He took one glance and said You and that goofy grin.' It crushed me. I haven't been able to smile in a photo ever since." Tim is nearly 40 years old now. That one comment still has impact 23 years later. Our words and our time are two very powerful gifts we can give. They can either build up or destroy. We have to be so careful how we spend both. I rarely share this concept with anyone who does not have a story of how someone affected him or her, either positively or negatively, with a comment. In this fast-paced world we live in, we may not be able to spend as much time as we'd like with our children. But we can make the time that we do have worthwhile. My hope is that next time you see a child, you will think about this message. I pray a little bell goes off in your head to remind you of these two words: "Divine Appointment." I hope you realize the opportunity God is giving you at that very moment to launch a life. First, get eye level with that child. Talk to him. Hug her. Hold that tiny little hand. Be a comforter or an encourageror both. Quality time. Maybe 30 years from now, that child will be sitting with a friend at lunch and remember, "The first person who really believed in me was "
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