Dalton is my friend, though he never talks to me. Perhaps I should qualify that statement. Once in a while he says, “Skid loader.” Usually he holds up his necktie and gives me a big smile. He might like ties as much as skid loaders. Even so, they make great conversation openers. Hard to miss, built like a linebacker with boundless enthusiasm to connect with others, he has landed a soft spot with everyone at church. Dalton is special, but that is not what makes him really special.

Dalton is blessed to have been raised by his loving Christian parents and family. Though we may try to understand, only those with special needs children can truly understand. The constant care required can be exhausting. Yet, these parents are the first to attest that their child is a great blessing from the Lord. In a day when selfishness abounds, these selfless parents are shining lights of God’s grace. As for their dear covenant children, we are no better than they. Rather, we are to esteem them better than ourselves as members of one body who will one day inherit all things.

There came a time when Dalton was nearing adulthood and needed specific training suited just for him. He was sent to live at a school some distance from home where he did not know a soul. Just how much he understood why he must go and for how long is unknown. Would he be afraid, even angry? We were praying for him.

When his parents visited, they learned how Dalton was adjusting. “You will not believe what he does!” exclaimed the staff. “During free time he sits on the edge of his bed and watches your church services on the DVD player.” His parents had sent the DVD’s packed in his bags. For someone who had limited attention to learn how to speak or for staying on task, this was astounding to the staff. They observed him watching the entire service, from start to finish, and frequently too. No one was telling him to do this.

“Oh, you must be Dalton’s pastor,” a couple of staff members said to my husband as we walked into the school. “We recognize you from your picture! Dalton likes to walk around pointing at it.” It turns out Dalton’s parents sent the church pictorial directory with him too. The staff was getting to know our whole congregation.

Instead of self-pity among strangers, Dalton turned to his heavenly Friend, Jesus Christ. He was not bitter but friendly to those around him. We might read books, attend lectures, or workshops on how to evangelize. We might encourage our young people to do the same. Yet, we can learn something from Dalton and others like him as well. Though short on words, his love and delight for God and His covenant friendship came through loud and clear. Do we and our children listen with eagerness to His Word in the preaching? Do we love our church and value each member as precious? This will not go unnoticed. Just as people observed the ordinary apostles with no special training, they marveled and “…took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

In a world filled with hopes of perfect children and designer babies to excel in high positions, Dalton graduated from a rudimentary school happily waving to friends and family. What makes Dalton so special is who he is by God’s grace. Some might consider him a rather unlikely evangel, but should we be so surprised? After all, whom do we think God uses?

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence (I Cor. 1:26-29).

God uses the weak to confound the mighty. Why else did He send poor, destitute Gideon to lead in victory an army reduced to just 300 men? Why else did the young shepherd boy’s father not even think to call David into his house when Samuel came to anoint the king of Israel? Why else could this amateur youth slay Israel’s over-sized archenemy with a homespun slingshot and stone? Why else did Mary sing, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree”? Why else did her son, Jesus, need to be born in a stable, choose lowly fishermen to be His apostles, or say, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise”? Why else does He use any of us sinful ‘nobodies’ to serve Him? Throughout Scripture the message is, “…Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory…” (Ps. 115:1).

God uses the weak. How does this affect our parenting? The world would think we have lost our mind. Their view of self-esteem is glorying in oneself, not in God. This is what they believe gives them motivation in life. They pump themselves up with confidence in themselves, ready to climb over others up the social ladders. Such parents want their children to stand out for their beauty or whatever they excel in. Sadly, these children learn that this is the way to receive their parent’s approval. So goes the cycle of selfishness, pride, and conditional “love.”

How our believing children view themselves is important. Some may mistakenly feel they have nothing to offer or are too timid to get involved. Sometimes I wonder, even among adults, if this is why some rarely speak in Bible study. The Reformed faith is so God-glorifying, humbling, and comforting. Yet, if the environment becomes thick with an overly critical spirit, it can be a problem. It should not surprise us when safety is sought in silence. Do we value each other enough to think the best and promote a relaxed discussion? Do we take the time to understand what is expressed? Each child of God is valuable and someone to learn from. May our children learn by our example of how God’s truth should never be misused in pride.

Scripture is the best place for our children to learn who they are. There are many verses to show them. Here are just a few:

…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… (Ps. 139:14).

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9).

…I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jer. 31:3).

 God loves our covenant children who are precious in His sight. May they know our love for them is unconditional as well. Their value is not based on their looks or accomplishments, but whose they are. That is the greatest “self-esteem” anyone can have.

Does knowledge of our sinfulness and failings harm our children’s view of themselves? Not in the least, for they know they are sinners saved by grace. We need God’s strength in our daily battle against our old man of sin. Our children have a sinful nature that desires all the glory. So do we. We need to help them, not contribute to it. How much do we focus on and compliment them for their good looks or accomplishments? Not that we cannot say anything about those things, of course. Yet, should we not notice and emphasize God’s gift of grace in their lives?

“You have been sharing your toys this morning.”

“I saw you listening well in church today.”

“I noticed you are treating your siblings with kindness.”

“I appreciate how you apologized without being asked to.”

“I saw you open the door for that widow.”

“I’ve noticed you are reading the Bible on your own without us reminding you.”

“It means a lot that you include your classmates, especially those who are lonely.”

At times it pleases God to use trials to teach us our weaknesses more deeply. He did so with the apostle Paul. He had a thorn in his flesh that he asked the Lord to remove. The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” How did Paul respond? “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:9, 10).

If the world thinks they have motivation, we have far more. What can anyone do apart from our mighty God? Self-glorying is empty. Of ourselves we are weak ‘nobodies,’ but that is exactly whom God uses. For it is God’s “power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). That should give us solid confidence—in Him.

God uses the weak to confound the mighty. There is no limit to what He can do. Whether our Lord gives us much or little, we confess, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Children like secrets. Is this not a wonderful secret to talk about with them? The secret to being content in every living situation is knowing that Christ strengthens us.

Dalton may not have been able to express that in words, but he certainly experienced God’s strengthening hand while away from home. He was a faithful witness. If someone were to observe your family or mine for a time, especially the way we deal with difficulties and one another, would they conclude the same? Only by the power of God’s grace working in us. To God be the glory!

All that I am I owe to Thee,
Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me;
I give my Maker thankful praise,
Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.
(Psalter #383)