"Does God get upset that we praise the flag instead of Him?"
This was the burning question on her mind tonight at the karate studio.
Eight year old Boo has now been studying taekwondo for six months. She has graduated to the second belt level of nine on her way to a black belt, and earned two of the three stripes necessary to graduate to the third.
As with many other things, I never know how much she is picking up. After having a month off, she has complained a little about going to lessons twice a week this summer. I tell myself it's just because it interferes with potential pool nights, but secretly I am waiting for the inevitable moment when she balks completely and refuses to be taught any longer. I wait for it because she went 0-for-3 with Creative Dance, Tumbling, and Swimming between the ages of 4 and 7.
She has now completed six months, longer than any of the previous activities, and to be honest her complaining seems a little half-hearted. My hopes are rising that she might stick with this one. The instructor has warned me that she may not be on track to progress through belts the most quickly of any of her students ever, but that the real successful students are simply the ones who persist. I love this instructor.
I love that the ATA Martial Arts brand aims to teach the whole person, not just a single discipline. The instructors constantly drill the kids on respect, loyalty, setting goals, being considerate, and several other admirable character qualities. They say sir and ma'am, bow to the ATA Flag painted above the mirrored wall before entering and leaving the drill area, and shake hands with their opponent before facing one another.
As a further part of educating the whole person, I have tried to show Boo the connect between taekwondo and real life, and between what the teachers teach and what God teaches. For example, this month's targeted trait is setting goals, and I have casually rambled in our moments alone about how we make plans for our lives, but always say, "if the Lord is willing" because we keep our hearts open to where God might be leading us. Conveniently, our pastor just touched on this verse from James a week ago, which helped me verbalize that connection.
Then tonight, apparently out of the blue, she thought to ask if God might be offended at something she was learning at the studio.
This coming from the child who sits through every lesson in church, school or taekwondo while examining her fingernails, swinging her feet, and/or puffing air up into her bangs. She exudes boredom. But apparently she has been listening, and putting thoughts together all on her own.
At dinner shortly after class, we had a chance to explain how bowing to the flag is not praising it; rather, it shows respect. We acknowledge that God is the ultimate authority in our lives, but we also are to show respect for parents, teachers, church leaders, and anyone else in a position of authority over us. Respecting our elders does not mean we don't also respect God's leadership. We explained that the flag represents all the teachers of taekwondo through the centuries, without whom the discipline of martial arts would not be what it is.
I don't know if she got it, but at least she said, "Ooohhhh" as if she did.
My heart filled with wonder at this exchange. She is independently thinking, about what God has to do with what she is learning! I get so lost in the mundane moments of life, that sometimes I forget my end goal: to raise children who choose to live their lives with Jesus' forgiveness, and to use their resources to do the work God leads them to do.
In moments like this, I catch an accidental glimmer that despite losing sight of the big picture, we are indeed on the right path, moving in the right direction toward our parenting goal.
Thanks to God, the author and perfecter of both my faith and hers.