I remember a little boy, precocious and mischievous. I can’t quite remember his facial features, but I do remember my feelings of him. Sometimes exasperation, often a challenge because I saw an intelligence and perhaps the need for guidance, understanding and kindness.
He was 6 or 7 years old then, and I was in my late teens embarking on youth leadership in my church. One of the many jobs I had was to teach Sunday School. At the time, it felt more like an unpaid babysitting job with a side dose of teaching the Scriptures. I enjoyed the responsibility and took to it with vigour.
I recall being warned about this naughty child I was to have in my class. And yes, he lived down to his reputation.
Now so many years later, I wonder about this label of “naughty”. Yes he was disobedient if one expected him to obey without question. He was a curious boy who wanted to know why, and how, and peppered me with many questions of “why not” and “why can’t I”. He was unruly if one expected him to be still and silent. That, he wasn’t. Instead he was active, couldn’t keep to his seat and yet never really disruptive. He just moved about. He always had an opinion, something to say or questions to ask. So I guess one could consider him rude.
A matter of perspective. A matter of expectations.
I remember this boy because recently I was told that “the naughty boy” is now a pastor, and by all accounts, a caring and kind leader and a shepherd, to use a religious term.
I am not sure if the past references of him as “naughty” and the many asides I’d heard of “what will become of him” spoken with derogatory tone and a shake of the head had impacted him. I am sure it has, though positive or negative I cannot tell. Perhaps it has spurred him to be what he is today. Perhaps it has always been within him though many people in his past did not see beyond the behavioural non-conformity. Perhaps as some would say, it was a transformation God has brought about in him, for could we not see how naughty he was and how different he is now?
I do not know the answer to the journey that is his life. But I can say this. That it is prudent to be hesitant in labelling another, and to acknowledge that speaking our perspectives is not the same as speaking the truth.
And when we say “give me a boy of 7, and I will give you the man”, we’d better make sure we saw clearly who this boy is before we dare give our predictions.
To begin with myself, then, the utterances of men concerning me will differ widely, since in passing judgment almost every one is influenced not so much by truth as by preference, and good and evil report alike know no bounds.
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