seven layers of delicious complexity

I salivate over seven layer bars.


I became enamored with them in college. They were available almost every single day in the DC (dining center) at Bethel. How spoiled I was. And, oh, how I took those days of dining with choices galore and desserts every meal for granted.

One of the best things about seven layer bars at my house is that no one else likes them. I know, right?! It’s a sweet deal.

The other night Tom and I were talking about our kids and how unique they each are. And how with each one entering our family, we are forced have an opportunity to grow and “expand our skill set,” as Rachel Jankovic says in Loving the Little Years.

Children– well, people (which children are, after all), are complex, layered little beings. Not only is every child completely unique, but their uniqueness changes as they grow! The minute you think you have your child pegged as ‘x’ they start to expand and grow into ‘x’ and ‘q’.

This is why parents (um, me) should refrain from pegging their children too strongly in any sense. This will quickly become pigeon-holing. It’s all well and good to say, “John’s the talkative one and Sally’s the shy one and Bill’s the athletic one and June’s the math whiz,” if it’s true and inescapable. But it may be true only for a short while. And it may not be the whole truth.


It doesn’t serve our children well to give them a permanent assignment of their person. Rather, as a pastor at our church often says, “Commend the commendable in them,” (meaning the things pertaining to godly character). Strengthen their identity in Christ and let the other stuff wax and wane as it will.

Children have this ability to become what we repeatedly say they are. Or to rebel against it. So, if a parent says over and over, “Sally’s the shy one.” Sally will most definitely be the shy one. Perhaps until she goes away to college.

Our children are complex by design. They have been made by their Creator with complexity, layers if you will, and the ability to grow and change . We want to encourage this ability as much as we can. It is training in godliness to give our children the security to go from “the athletic one” to “the athletic book worm.” Someday they will need to go from “the student,” to “the student and teacher.”

Not to mention all the absolute changes that repentance requires. But, that’s starting down a different road.

The bottom line is this: knowing our children means observing when they change and expand, and embracing it with them. Encouraging it in them. Not assigning them who they are at 5 years old, thinking, “Well, I’ve got them figured out,” and repeating it until they’re 15. You may have them figured out at 5–it’s possible and probable in some respects. But don’t assume you do. Keep watching. Keep learning. Keep getting to know the complexity that’s in your child.

It will serve them well. It will make them deeper, richer people. And it will do the same for us parents, as well.

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8