When you look at the students in your life (let’s give them a name for the sake of convenience—how about Steve and Sally?), what do you see? What stands out to you?
Is it their height, their build or their features? Is it their personality, style or quirks?
The world sees their label—jock, diva, brain, groupie, gaming geek, ladies man or drama queen.
They are assessed a tag based on their past behaviors—liar, thief, pervert or addict; difficult, dangerous, dominating or delusional.
They judge Sally every day and in many ways prophesy over her. Steve is typecast based upon the roles he has been most comfortable with in the past.
We must not do the same.
If we truly love Steve and Sally and want them to love themselves, and if we truly want them to be defined by passion for Christ, strength of character and an upwardly mobile self-worth, we must evaluate our perspectives and help them do the same. If we want them to be healthy, we must see past their scars and beyond their failures.
When God looks at Steve and Sally, He does not see who they are, and He does not judge them by what they have done. He sees their intentional design and the creative brilliance that lies deep inside of them.
He sees Himself, for He is who they were fashioned after. And if you remove the residue of this world, He is whom they were created to reflect.
On the outside, Steve might be insecure, awkward and uncomfortable. Sally might be making bad choices with substances and relationships or causing herself pain.
They might project poison, but deep down there is an incredible treasure. That is what we need to see.
If we truly saw what Steve and Sally are deep down instead of what they are at street level, do you think we would encourage more? Do you think we would pray differently? Do you think we would work with God to bring out the best?
If we are going to change our perceptions, then it is important to begin with Scripture.
The Bible talks about Steve and Sally. God’s motivations, His purposes and His desires for them are chronicled. The challenges of their journeys and the faithful promises of what they can do and can become are there for all to see. The Bible offers God’s unchanging and perfect perspective on these young people along with the principles that can help guide and protect them. As we begin to picture them as He does, the Bible offers us encouragement and a map of how to more effectively love and lead them.
Because Scripture is jam-packed with God’s thoughts toward Steve and Sally, I will not try to recount them all here. However, I would like to point out a few very key thoughts that must rest at the front of our minds if we seek to release Steve and Sally to be the people we truly believe they can be.
They were created in the image of God. I realize this is not a new thought to you or to Steve and Sally. They have heard it before. They may believe it or think it is crazy talk, but their posture toward this truth does not determine its validity. It is true. Genesis 1:26 declares that as humans, we were crafted in the image of the God of heaven, the Creator of the universe, the Big Guy. If it is true of us collectively, it is surely true of Steve and Sally. The challenge is remembering that when their imperfections, impatience and ignorance are on display.
They were never intended to know shame. Upon completion of the creation process, God declared that Steve and Sally were to know no shame (Gen. 2:25). In God’s design, they were to walk in relationship with the Father, and through this perfect relationship, shame, guilt, remorse, regret and personal questioning would not play a role in their lives. Steve and Sally were created to walk tall, have confidence and live life to the full. They were made to have joy that is indescribable, peace that passes all understanding and hope that does not fade. But because of the fallen world and the brokenness of mankind, Steve and Sally are faced with emotional and spiritual attacks that they were never intended to struggle with.
They are brilliant in their design. God was very intentional when He was designing your Steve and Sally. They are not a culmination of leftover parts, and they are not an afterthought. Even if in the worldly sense they were a “surprise” or a “mistake,” in the heavenly sense, they are a masterpiece. Psalm 139 says that they have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It also says that their every thought and action was known by God before one of them came to be. Ephesians 2:10 says that Steve and Sally are God’s workmanship. Another translation declares they are His masterpieces. I know they may not seem like the epic work of the brilliant designer, but they are. God’s fingerprints are all over them, and He is so proud.
God has great plans for them. Steve and Sally have been positioned to have a tremendous impact on those around them and on God’s kingdom plans. He knows why He placed them here (Jer. 11:29) and what He placed inside of them (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Pet. 4). He even knows the times they would be alive and the exact places they would live (Acts 17:26-27). He has plans for them that were preordained (Eph. 2:10). Steve and Sally are not only God’s invention and His children; they are also tools in His tool belt and weapons in His arsenal. God will use them to promote good and squash evil. When walking with God, they will build God’s kingdom and frustrate His enemy. They serve a purpose that is bigger than what we can see and understand.
They are not yet who they will be. Sure, they have rough edges and inconsistencies; they are imperfect, and sometimes their junk is impossible to ignore. However, because their lives are on a God-fueled journey, Steve and Sally are growing every day. Philippians 1:6 reminds us that God began a good work in them, and He will complete it. They are not perfect, but God is active in their lives. He loves them and is helping them overcome themselves. He hasn’t given up on them, and we can’t either.
It is imperative that we not allow our feelings or even our past experiences to dictate how we view Steve and Sally. We must see them through Spirit lenses that look past the garments of insecurity, failure, rebellion and mistakes.
If we cannot view them the way God does, then we cannot encourage them the way He would. And we will not be able to help them become something better than what they are.