Parenting in the dirt of our humanity - Sarah Mae
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Parenting in the dirt of our humanity

The other day I was sitting with my one of my children when they looked up at me and said, “Mom, you look like Rumplestiltskin. Under your eyes are all scaly and kind of purple.”

THIS is the Rumplestiltskin they thought I looked like.

I know.

I said, “That’s not a very nice thing to say.” They grinned. They didn’t mean to be unkind, they just thought it was interesting and funny and fascinating, like they were just making an observation.

We carried on with our day, but a little while later I had a “tea and discipleship” time with each of my kids individually. I had each child come into my bedroom with some hot tea and cookies. I asked them what was on their heart, and then I shared with them what I saw in them and then addressed an issue I saw that I felt like needed to be acknowledged. When it was the child’s turn who told me I looked like Rumple, I began to open the Scriptures when, as though they couldn’t contain themselves, said again, “I just can’t help it mom, you look like Rumplestiltskin under your eyes.”

It was then that I started to cry.

It just happened; the tears flowed out and I covered my eyes and said, “That really hurt my feelings.” As I was wiping away my tears I saw that my child was crying too. So there we were, both crying, and both tender-hearted, and we hugged and my child said, “I’m sorry mom. You’re beautiful. I’m so sorry.”

I looked at my sorrowful child who felt the pain of hurting another person and said, “I know you’re sorry and I know you love me. I don’t mean to cry, but your words hurt my feelings. It’s important that we use words that build people up, not tear people down, do you understand?”

“Yes” came out through the sniffles.

My sweet child was repentant and they felt what I believe to be godly sorrow. They saw that their words hurt someone, and they felt it and they didn’t want to do it again. They didn’t want to use their words to hurt and tear down.

I’m glad I cried in front of my child. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I’m glad it happened and I’m glad they felt sorrow.

After the sorrow came forgiveness and grace. And that’s the part I love the most, the forgiveness. It’s in forgiveness that my child gets to experience being in the light after something dark. It’s there where I can show them the sweet gift of gentleness and grace and kindness. Forgiveness in purity is the best. My hope and prayer is that forgiveness becomes an ingrained part of their psyche, this knowing that they don’t have to be ashamed or locked up, but that they can experience good guilt and then be set free to keep on in grace.

This is the dirt of parenting: vulnerability and humanity laid bare before our children; honesty mixed with love and grace and forgiveness. It’s in this dirt, I think, that our kids learn to be kind and compassionate and forgiving. I think it’s where they learn they are in it with one another, and this “in it-ness” leads them to know they are loved and that they can love. They are loved in the mess of their sin and humanity, as we are loved by God in our sin and humanity, and they can turn around and love others in their sin and humanity. Love and grace and forgiveness sets people free.

This is why God says to love and forgive, over and over and over, even when it’s hard, even when it hurts.

The hope is freedom.

So I’m hoping today that I will lead my children towards freedom and that you will too. I’m hoping that we will be women who are not afraid of our humanity or our tears or our mess laid bare before our children; that we are okay to not have “it” together. I hope we’ll be women who show our children that we are in this dirt with them. Messy and loved and free.

Thank you Jesus.


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  • Sarah

    I love your meaning but I pray that one day you find peace with the lesser parts of your character. The “dirt” and the “sinfulness”, you often speak so harshly (or so it seems to me) and I can see that in some way you think of yourself in a bad way. You are a courageous woman, putting yourself out for all of us to see. And what I see is beauty and beautiful vulnerability in you – there is no dirt.
    And if children are sinful by nature, be soft about that. I fear that you are too heavily wounded and blame yourself for such things, or blame them. If we speak kindly of these aspects of ourselves, our views will become kinder as well, like the way Sally speaks of things.
    Pls don’t publish this. I beg you, be kinder to yourself. Use kinder, softer words. Your soul needs it.
    Xxx love, Sarah.

  • Rachel Riebe

    Being humbly honest in front of our children seems so backwards – we are in charge darn it! – but i fully agree that it’s that choice to be vulnerable that cultivates relationship and teaching opportunity. Also, i love the idea of discipleship time with each child!

  • Lisa @ Simple & Soul

    I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to ask forgiveness from my mom for probably the first time in my adult life. It was such a tender moment where the Spirit forged a deeper bond of not only mother and daughter but of sisters in Christ. I’ll never forget it.

  • Stacy Duncan

    So beautiful and humbling! Thank you for sharing!! And, once upon a time is the BEST isn’t it!

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