It happens to every kid sooner or later. Maybe they don’t feel they’re the prettiest or most handsome. They don’t feel they’re popular, athletic, or smart enough. Maybe they messed up—or somebody else did. The end result? The son or daughter that you love more than life itself feels like junk. What do you say to them when that happens?
The tendency is to remind them how much you love them. That’s good, and needed—but it likely won’t do as much for your kids as you hope—especially if they’re in middle grade or older. The way they see it? Mom and Dad will always love them because that’s what parents do. But it doesn’t change the way kids see themselves.
Sometimes showing is better than telling. So rather than talk them through this—take them through it. Run to the grocery store and pick up some fat, juicy tomatoes and a couple of gallon-size zip-lock bags. Next, double-bag the tomatoes—careful to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
Now, let one of your kids smash the tomatoes sealed in the zip-lock. They can use their fist, stomp on it, or use a rubber mallet if you have one. Once the tomatoes are smashed, hold up the bag.
Ask them something like this: What do we do with smashed tomatoes? Are they junk—do we throw them out? Or do we put them in the fridge? Either answer will do.
Now say something like this: These tomatoes definitely look like junk, but a smashed tomato is just the beginning of things you really like. In the hands of a chef, what kinds of food are made from smashed tomatoes?
You’ll get answers like pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, chili, salsa, and the list of deliciousness goes on. Remind them that in the hands of a chef, a smashed tomato is just the beginning of some really good things. You’re doing great so far.
Now let’s transition to a bit of spiritual truth by saying something like this: Sometimes you’re going to feel like junk. It will happen many, many times to you in life. Kids, here’s what I want you to remember when that happens. God is like a “Heavenly Chef”. He makes great things out of messed up lives.
Now, briefly recount the story of Moses. They know the story, right? So just give them the sixty second highlight—and tie in a nugget of spiritual truth at the end. Moses was in a position to help his people, but he messed up and killed an Egyptian. So Moses had to escape Egypt—run for his life. What do you think he felt like while he was on the run in the desert? I’d guess he felt like junk. Like he totally messed up. Like he’d never have another chance to help his people. But God had a different plan for Moses, didn’t he? God took that messed up, smashed tomato of a man and turned him into one of the greatest leaders of all time.
Kids … you’ll feel like junk sometimes … that’s part of life. And when you do … give it to God. Trust him. He has a plan for your life—and he’ll use this for a purpose you probably can’t see now. Always remember the lesson of the smashed tomatoes. God is like a Heavenly Chef—he makes great things out of messed up lives.
Presto. You’ve just shown them a different way of looking at their situation. And when you do a visual demo like that—with them involved—they’ll remember it.
And sometimes adults feel like junk too, don’t we? Okay, I’ve got a little job for you. Run to the grocery store and pick up a couple of big, juicy tomatoes …
Do you think your kids ever feel like junk … like they don’t measure up somehow?
Is it possible that your kids might feel like junk—but be hiding it from you?
Can you think of some unhealthy things kids do to themselves when they feel like junk?
Do you see the importance of talking about this with your kids—even if they seem fine?
Would you pick a day this week to smash tomatoes … and then have pizza afterwards?
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
By Tim Shoemaker
Husband to Cheryl
Dad of three sons and two daughter-in-laws
Grandfather of five grandkids
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Author and Speaker
Click HERE to link to Tim’s website Smashed Tomatoes (and other life lessons) and to view the family devotionals and books Tim has written.
Register for the HeartCORe Single Parent Conference
January 21, 2017 in Kansas City.
Click HERE for more information and to register.
Keynotes, breakout sessions, worship, music, lunch, child care, fun, fellowship, and MORE! Single parenting experts Misty Honnold and Matt Haviland, members of the 1C13P team, will be presenting alongside Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, co-founders of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. Join us for this culturally relevant and impactful event.
Register for the HeartCORe Single Parent Conference in Kansas City on January 21, 2017.
A special session for pastors and lay leaders is planned for Friday, January 20! Register HERE!