Scriptures: 1 Samuel 16

Parenthood is essentially a matter of continuous training. By that I mean that everything you do day in and day out teaches your child something - sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. So from time to time we have to ask ourselves: "What am I teaching my children? What am I communicating to them?" With that question in mind, I call your attention to the episode we just read from the Book of 1 Samuel.

The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and anoint one of his sons as Saul's successor. When Samuel arrived at Jesse's house, he learned that Jesse had eight sons. Jesse trotted the oldest ones out proudly, hoping that one of them was the one Samuel was seeking. But no, none of them would do. About that time, Samuel was wondering if he had gotten his assignment right from the Lord, wondering if he had made a mistake. Just to make sure, he asked if Jesse had any more sons. Sure enough, he did. The youngest. A boy named David who was out tending sheep. Jesse summoned David, and when he arrived, the Lord said to Samuel, "This is the one." And so, right then and there, David was anointed as Israel's next king.

"This is the one." Those words sum up the kind of attitude parents ought to have toward their children and communicate to their children.

For example, this expression reminds me of the importance of instilling in our children a sense of self-worth. Of giving them the gift of acceptance and letting them know they are special in their own way.

"This is the one" can translate into "You are somebody special."

Unfortunately, Samuel went about his task of finding the Lord's anointed with a sort of "beauty contest" mentality. And Jesse did, too. They looked for the most handsome, the strongest, the one who appeared to have the most wisdom. When Samuel had looked over all Jesse's sons, he asked if there were any more. Jesse said, "Well, there's David. Now, he's the youngest. And he's out tending sheep." The unspoken idea Jesse communicated was, "He's not the one." Jesse overlooked David because he was the youngest, probably not the most handsome, and certainly lacking maturity. "He's nothing special. Nope, he's not the one."

If we're not careful, parents today can succumb to the same tendency: to minimize their children, to discount who they are for one reason or another. In a thousand little ways, we can communicate to our children the sense that they're not special on their own, that they don't measure up either to a sibling or to someone else. As a result, they will grow up lacking a sense of self-confidence. They will never feel accepted on their own terms. So, what is the proper approach? How can we go about instilling within our children that vital sense of self-worth and acceptance? I think there is nothing more valuable in this regard than you as parents enjoying your children. Yes, that's exactly what I said: "enjoying your children."

Sam Keene, a noted author, visited his father before he died to thank him for being a good parent. He told his father what meant most to him as a child: "You have always been there whenever any of us children needed you. And across the years, you have given us the best single gift that any parent could give - you took delight in us. In all sorts of ways you let us know that you were glad we were here, that we had value in your eyes, that our presence was a joy and not a burden to you." (Sam Keene, quoted in Stages: The Art of Living the Expected by John R. Claypool, Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1977, 23.)

I think the most important thing he said there was, "You took delight in us. You let us know you were glad we were here." I know that's extremely difficult when they have just repainted the den wall with magic markers or when they decide to wade in the nearest mudhole while you're cleaning house. But it's true, nonetheless. Children will develop a sense of self-worth and acceptance to the degree you enjoy them. Your children will develop that sense of acceptance and worth that will enable them to contribute to this world only to the degree that they sense you're glad they're here. That you enjoy the fact that they are a part of your life. In so doing, you give them the sense that they really are "the one" no matter what.

Charles and John Wesley are familiar to us. One a great hymn-writer, the other a great preacher. Instrumental in founding what we know today as the Methodist church. But Charles and John Wesley were but two of the 18 children born to Suzanna Wesley and her husband. Now, in that time, there were certainly few, if any, conveniences to make a day's work around the house easier.

Nevertheless, this wonderful woman made a point of spending some part of her day with each of her children. She refused to let time become her enemy, and in her own way, let them know that she delighted in them. She was able to communicate to each of those children the sense that "you are the one as far as I am concerned." I am convinced that her diligence in this regard enabled Charles and John to make the contributions to the church that they did. (Carlyle Marney, Achieving Family Togetherness (Nashville: Abingdon, 1958, 15)

"This is the one." Those words not only express the importance of making our children feel valuable, but they also communicate the idea that something is expected of them. These words remind us of the calling each child has, a calling to use his or her uniqueness and gifts to the fullest and to bless this world. To say to a child, "You are the one" is to nudge them toward discovering their gifts and becoming good stewards of those gifts. "This is the one" translates into "You can do something special."

When Jesse brought young David in from tending the sheep and presented him to Samuel, the old prophet took one look at this young lad and anointed him as Israel's king. "This is the one." You have been chosen, and you have something to contribute to your people. I have an idea that when David became king he wore his crown well because he was able to look back on this event, remembering that he was indeed the one. God had chosen him, and God expected him to be somebody and do something with his gifts. Perhaps at some point later in life, when his kingdom was threatened and he doubted his own abilities, David would look back on this day and remember that he had been chosen. He would look back on this moment and take strength from it.

Expectation is crucial! Expect nothing of your children, and that is exactly what they will produce - nothing! Train them just to get by, and they will spend their lives being mediocre. But expect something of them. Ask them to be the best God made them to be. Ask them to make something of themselves. Expect that, and your child will blossom before your eyes. John Claypool has written that we as parents ought to cultivate a kind of "Christmas tree spirit" in our children, (Claypool, Stages, 32) communicating to them that all kinds of packages lie about in their nature and personality and they need to open them up and find out what's there. "No matter how secure a child may feel in the delight of his family, no matter how much self-worth may have been internalized, if he has not also developed a sense of responsibility to take what has been given and pass it on to others, then it is not likely that God's dream for him can ever come true." (Claypool, Stages, 32).

So, what are you communicating to your children? What are you teaching them by your words and actions? I hope that in no small way you are telling them, "You are the one." By the grace of God, you are something and you can do something special.