“My kid is driving me crazy.”

That was my confession to a friend as we circled the elementary school where we had both just dropped off our daughters. The two of them had started Kindergarten in a dual-language program, and I was having a hard time in the afternoons with Anna after she came home each day from school. My normally easy child was suddenly extrmeley rude and irritable on a regular basis, and different character issues where coming up that I hadn’t seen in her before. It was all really trying me, and I was losing to my own frustration.

As we prayed together for our kids, we talked about how grateful we were that God knew the depth of our nature and situation. I prayed specifically that God would give me eyes to see and understand Anna’s story better so that I would grow in empathy and compassion. Both were deeply lacking in me.

That evening, her school had open house where parents could meet teachers, learn about what their kids were doing, and hear about ways to be involved. I was eager to get a better picture of life for her.

What I quickly realized was that school for Anna was way harder than I had any categories for. The teacher talked of the adjustment it was for kids to go back and forth between two languages all week. She shared how sometimes kids would just stare at her in frustration and say, ” I don’t know what you’re saying!” Their school day was also far more full of movement than I had previously understood. They were going to different classrooms for different portions of learning, and sometimes that learning was in English and other times in Spanish. It was all entirely confusing for me, which left me amazed at how well Anna had been doing in light of that.

Beyond just content and language, which would be enough to exhaust me as an adult, there was also so much Anna was learning about people and how to love others well. With the program, each native English speaker gets paired up with a native Spanish speaker in order for them to teach one another in the language the other is stronger in. It is a beautiful system. It is also incredibly complex. There were so many layers of challenge to it that didn’t dawn on me until that night. On top of the normal stretch that it is for kids to learn how to make friends and be good friends, on a daily basis Anna was also having to navigate how to be friends with someone who couldn’t speak the same language as her. How could she teach him and let him teach her when they were starting from a place of not a lot in common up front?

I was overcome with a mixture of conviction, empathy, and pride as we walked out of her school that evening. The truth that I had failed to see Anna in all the fullness of what was going on with her had started to sink in. Yes, my daughter is still a kid. But she’s also a whole person trying to make sense of life just like me. And working out that life can be hard just like it can be for me. All month she had been learning cultural dynamics that some adults don’t even know how to move through, and she had been doing it while transitioning to life in school as a kindergartner. That was deserving of compassion when all of those emotions got the best of her by the end of the day.

What if seeing people as Imago Dei meant we also learned to know them and their stories more completely?

But I was also so proud of how she had kept pushing through the challenge of things and had been creating new ways of thinking in her brain that she didn’t have before. She’d also been daily practicing how to love and genuinely view others as not just classmates, but little people with whole backdrops to their lives that didn’t match hers. She was becoming far braver and courageous than I had been giving her credit for before.

I have been thinking lately about how God has created all of us in his image and that this truth infuses all of us with infinite value as his created humanity. What if seeing people as Imago Dei meant we also learned to know them and their stories more completely? What if it meant not reducing them to what is simplest or most convenient for us?

For me, I was needing to grow in seeing Anna more fully and not simplifying her to just the part of her I was experiencing at the end of a crazy complicated day. For Anna, though, she is also currently learning to grow in seeing people as created in God’s beautiful image. She is learning to love her neighbor, especially when that neighbor is different than her. And she is learning to see value in people by letting them teach her as she teaches them too. What significant lessons for any of us in any season of life. May God teach all of us to love like this.

photo credit: naosuke ii