In contrast, I have vivid childhood memories of the older girls who helped in my Sunday school class. While I may have wished for a personal encounter with the president as a child, when it came down to daily life, I was in the clouds if one of those girls six or seven years older would just smile at me. Good grief, I didn’t care how Britney Spears styled her hair---but those girls colored their Bible characters with blue and purple crayons, and by George, so would I.
That, my friends, is called influence. Role models---the people we look up to---have an incredible ability to instill a love for something into our hearts, in little and big things...especially when we are children.
If you don’t believe me, come over to my house any random afternoon, and I’ll show you one absorbed thirteen year old soaking up his older brother’s historical novel from the Napoleonic era, and one animated little seven year old on the floor next to him, studying an encyclopedia open to the same subject. Random chance that three boys with completely different make-ups find the same period of history fascinating? Maybe, maybe not.
A wise man once said, "The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart---this you will build your life by, this you will become."
All of us are influenced most by the people we are around in daily life. Knowing this, what kind of vision are you instilling into the hearts and minds of the little people looking up to you? What ideal are you living out before their eyes? I assure you, whether you are attempting to or not, your daily life is giving them an ideal to judge their own life by, both now and in the future.
Does your life present a challenge for them to meet and exceed your accomplishments, or are you stifling their ambition through daily habits of laziness, disrespect, and selfishness? Are your words, your attitudes, your actions with them and around them an encouragement for them to pursue their best for God? Or does your apathy squelch their budding passion? If they took you as their blueprint, what kind of life would they be building?
Matthew 18:5-6 says, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
We don’t usually think of “stumbling” as being a very big deal, but when it comes to His little ones, the Lord Jesus Christ does. We as teenagers need to think long and hard on the realization that the choices we make in our lives affect not only our future and us but also the lives and futures of the children who are watching us. And we need to realize that whether we like it or not, if that influence is a bad one, not only are those precious little ones going to suffer for it, but we are going to be held accountable by the God of heaven.
That thought has challenged me of late to stop and look at the kind of example I have been living out for my little brothers, and to start viewing them not as “in the way” of where I’m going in life, but as part of it.
Join me in considering the following questions:
- Do you actively involve the young ones in your life in your activities and interests, or do you see them as an annoyance and hindrance to those things?
- Has your influence on those young ones been an inspiration or a detriment? What can you do on a practical level to chance and improve?
- How did older teens affect you positively or negatively as a child? How can you improve upon their example?