Influence – What does this word mean to you? Is influence about DNA or family heritage, or does environment play a greater part in shaping us through influence? Maybe we’re a culmination of all of these.
On a recent trip to several Mexico orphanages/shelters, I had the incredible privilege of meeting an adorable little boy named Mateo (Matthew). Mateo had been at one of the shelters for a year and the director guesstimates that Mateo was approximately three years old when he arrived, making him four when I met him. Mateo’s story touched me deeply and he was the cutest kid ever. When police found Mateo, they phoned the boys shelter and asked if they had room for a two-year-old boy.
The director of the shelter shared her recollection of Mateo’s arrival with me. She remarked, “Mateo was so malnourished giving the appearance of a two-year-old, but we quickly realized that this bright little boy was in fact a three-year-old based on his developmental markers.”
Mateo, found living on the streets, was abandoned by his parents who authorities now believe were both drug addicts and no other relatives could be located.
A Natural Born Leader
He has done very well at the shelter; he is now the size of a healthy four-year-old boy.
He is exceptionally intelligent and “a natural born leader” according to the director.
“However,” she shared, “we were initially met with the challenge of teaching Mateo appropriate speech.” Our team looked at her with confusion. She went on to share that as a “street kid” Mateo had been taken in by older street kids who took care of him and he came in “talking like a gangster.”
We laughed inside but realized the challenge that must have been and the words he must have said. Can you imagine?
The Influence of Environment
I kept thinking of Mateo and how he had been influenced by his environment. How, at three, Mateo had seen things and heard things that were showing up in his mannerisms and his speech.
This inspired me to look at and question my own life – my accent as a southern woman, the slang words I use that I heard my parents use and now my children and their children use them as well, the foods I enjoy and the people that introduced me to them, even the social behaviors I find acceptable based on my life experience.
See, Mateo didn’t try to talk like or behave like a gangster, he simply mimicked the examples he had in his life, in his daily surroundings.
How should our behavior and speech be? Should we display behavior and speak words that we know dishonor Jesus? Rationalizing that, “we’ve always heard that or said that?” Should we yell at our children or spouse because that’s what we saw growing up? Should a man believe his sole job in his home is to provide financially because it’s what his father did? Should we follow traditions that are no longer relevant in current times? Should we share our dislike for the new music at church because “it doesn’t sound like church music should sound?” Should we dislike a certain “neighbor” because our parents did? Should we accept things on TV or in music that don’t line up with our values because “times are changing and that’s become the new norm?”
Our Ultimate Influencer
As followers of Christ, Jesus should be our influencer. Our words and mannerisms should look like Him and bring glory to His name. People should want to know our God based on our life and our love. We should question the influences in our life and ask how they line up with God’s Word and His character.
Ask God to make you an influence to those in your life. Strive to live a life that looks like Jesus. We can change, grow, and develop into who HE desires us to be. I want that in my life. To say I’m there would not be true, but I’m surely not where I use to be and I know I can ask Him daily for wisdom and guidance to be like HIM and HE is faithful to respond.
What, or who is your greatest Influence?
It’s a great day to evaluate and make intentional decisions to make forward changes in life. I sure am.
Bless you, Jan Hicks
Scriptures for Meditation
~ Proverbs 7:1-4
1Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.
2 Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes.
3 Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.
4 Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family.