This morning as I was meditating and preparing for a prayer meeting, Holy Spirit lead me to look up Trenton, New Jersey. At first I was confused, but I obeyed and found an article written in the Trentonian (January 2016) featuring the thoughts of a known gangster, Earlie Harrell. Harrell is known for his association with a popular gang, but what makes him distinctive to me is his wisdom about what makes young men join a gang and why they resort to crime for their livelihood. Harrell says poverty is the reason and the lack of an education is the cause of poverty.
I am not surprised by Harrell’s conclusion, but I believe many of our young people would be surprised that a gang member encourages getting an education to avoid poverty and a life of crime. Harrell didn’t quote any scriptures, but his philosophy can be found in Proverbs 4:5 – 7. Getting wisdom and understanding is essential to successful living.
As an educator I encounter children from all walks of life. I have students from very wealthy families who are blessed with the latest and greatest things and they are clothed and fed with the finest. I also have students who live in near squalor conditions and their only access to running water and hot meals is found at school. Although their home lives are different, they have many things in common.
They are all capable of learning. They all desire to be loved and accepted. They all want to succeed and they all have a God-designed purpose. Interestingly enough, they can also have behavior issues that don’t reflect their potential as productive citizens capable of sustaining a strong community.
It is those behaviors that often affect their learning and cast a negative light on their personalities. Teachers get frustrated with constant redirection and try various types of discipline strategies. Most strategies work on most students, but some require a more creative approach–a Christ approach.
I am challenging myself and others who are blessed with the responsibility of working with difficult children and adults, to change a life with love and a vision.
Loving others is one of the greatest commandments and we have learned by Christ’s example how to show His love. When we are emotional I think we forget about the vision part that goes along with love. Christ loved us before we were born. He saw into the future and sometimes we forget that His disciples had character flaws.
Some wore arrogant and felt entitled. Others were greedy, doubtful, and quick-tempered. He didn’t judge them as losers. He did the opposite–He loved them and He showed them what they could be. He showed them their potential, taught them by example, and then gave them opportunities to practice what He was teaching. He called them by their purpose–His disciples, His friends.
That is our challenge–to speak to others as if they are walking in their divine purpose and potential. I love the Good News Translation of Proverbs 18:21, “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” If I want to see all of my students grow into women and men who make a positive influence on their community, I know that I have to help them see their potential. I have to speak to them as if they were in the future.
Jesus said to His disciples before they were sent, “You are the salt of the earth,” “You are the light of the world,” “You can feed them” “You will do the works that I do, and greater works”. He even spoke to our future. He prayed for us before we were born (John 17:20-21). We were on His mind then and we are still on His mind because He is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:21).
Let’s rise to the challenge. Let’s speak to the potential of this generation and the next:
You may not see it yet
But I see who you are.
I see your potential
You're not what you've done so far.
The plan for your life lingers
Waiting for you to realize
The unlimited possibilities
You have locked inside.