John Wesley was raised knowing that God had something important for him to do in the world. I was reminded of this yesterday when, during my Bible readings I ran across Zechariah 3:2, “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (ESV). Those who know Wesley’s life or Methodist history would know this is how John’s mother, Susanna, thought of John when he was rescued at the last minute from a fire in their home when John was a young boy. Men stood on top of each other’s shoulders to make a human ladder to reach John and pulled him to safety right before the roof crashed down where he had been. Susanna thought of this verse and decided that John needed extra attention because God had preserved him for something.
John grew up with this story. He knew God had kept him alive for some reason, and he wanted to make sure he accomplished that purpose. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Wesley created a movement that has become one of the largest groups of Christians in the world (see this post for stats) and he is credited with preserving England from the radical revolutions that swept Continental Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and for seriously contributing to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire due to his influence on the likes of William Wilberforce.
Sometimes parents overly praise their children to the extent that children are not prepared for the hurts and failures that real life can bring. When kids think they are obviously the best at everything, and anything they attempt is perfect, they are being set up for failure in life quite simply because there will generally be someone else who is better at something than they are.
On the flip-side, there are parents that limit the praise and children grow up thinking that they cannot do anything well. They may have success in life but never feel as if they are fulfilled because the voice in their heads tell them that it is not “good enough.”
John Wesley is a great case in the middle road. This is how his parents treated him. Susanna and Samuel Wesley raised John, telling him that he was there for a purpose (the brand from the fire) but they were also realistic about life and John’s abilities. They encouraged him where he was gifted and did not overly admonish him where he was not. To be sure, it took John a long time in adulthood to come to a balanced life (some might say he never quite arrived there), but the results of his life cannot be denied.
Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for our children is to remind them every so often that they have a unique mission on this earth given to them by God. It is a mission that only they can do, because if it was not then God would have created someone else for a different mission. Every one of us, whether we have had an encounter with a blazing inferno of a home, are brands plucked from the fire. We are all here by the grace of God and we all have something we are uniquely qualified to do.