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I sat in the middle seat of the wood-grained station wagon, peering over the blue leather seats ahead of me, trying to get the best view I could out of the front windshield. I was on mission with my family to complete an ATI homeschool assignment for that day:
“As a family, drive to a busy supermarket. Park near the entrance so that you can observe from your car those who enter and leave the store. Try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Write down all you can for each of the following points. Use the vocabulary words throughout your report.” 
All around the parking lot, people were walking into the store. As my family sat in our car and watched the automatic doors of the shop open and close, with possible prospects appearing, I felt like everyone surely must be watching me as I sat in the car, wondering why I didn’t exit the vehicle. My eight-year-old mind tried to wrap itself around the given task and complete it in as short a time as possible.
But what was I trying to distinguish from these people marching to and fro?
I glanced back at one of the examples printed on my assignment paper:
“I discern that the young woman walking toward the store has the attire of an immoral woman and needs to gain moral freedom. I also discern from the hardness of her facial features that she needs to overcome bitterness toward those who have wronged her.”
“What’s immoral?” I wondered, “And what does ‘hardness of facial features’ mean?” My little brain shifted into overdrive as an inner battle began to tear at my thoughts. “What’s wrong with that lady? Why do I have to find something bad?” My normally cheerful demeanor was darkened by the burden of having to pick out defects in others.
But then a woman was pointed out, and I stuffed my mixed emotions deep inside and began scribbling onto my paper some of the words that my Wisdom Booklet had taught me to say: bitterness, anger, strongholds, lack of authority, root cause, spirit of rebellion, eye traps in her immodest gym shorts…
Does this sound strange to anyone but me? Is anyone else asking “What in the world were those people thinking?” or maybe “Who has that much time?” Or maybe you’re wondering why someone would attempt to teach children to be so critical? I wonder these things too.
Now I read Psalm 139 and try to put a once-skewed subject into proper context. Instead of trying to discern others’ attitudes and behaviors, I recognize that only God knows their thoughts and their ways. And I remember that only He knows mine as well.
“God, You have searched me, and You know me. You know my true thoughts. You are familiar with all of my ways. Before a thought is in my mind, You’ve already known it. You lay Your hand on me and guide me through those who criticize and judge me based on my appearance…. You created my inmost being. I am fearfully and wonderfully made–the way that I think, my personality, my outward appearance, my quirks–You know all of these things… and You made me anyway. So search me, God, know my thoughts, see if there is any anxious thought in me, and lead me in the right way always.”
How do those thoughts line up with Bill Gothard’s assignment? How are the words written by David, inspired by God, to be compared to the task Mr. Gothard wrote?
As an adult, I sometimes revisit that day when I walk across a parking lot. I chuckle thinking about me trying to get the best view out of the windshield while staying buckled into my seat belt. But then I feel a twinge of sadness and I hope that there is not a little girl inspecting me, prying the flaws out of my appearance, and teaching herself to fabricate such perceptions about her own little body, little life, little mind.
I hope, instead, that she is learning to do what I didn’t learn early enough:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.”
The blue leather seats, Wisdom Booklets, and discernment projects are all things of my past, but it’s important that I align those memories with what I know now to be true: God’s grace is sufficient and it applies to me even on the days when I might have ‘hard facial features’ because of life’s curve balls. This learning about God is an ever-evolving process, and it’s an every day journey toward Recovering Grace.
 All content from this assignment quoted from Wisdom Booklet 1, Advanced Training Institute International, Institute in Basic Life Principles
 Psalm 139, paraphrased, Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
 Philippians 4:8-9, Today’s New International Version (TNIV)