“Why don’t they have toes, mommy?”
“Because they’re mannequins, honey. They aren’t real.”
“They look real. Do they hide their funny feet under their shoes?”
“Yes, honey, something like that.”
“Or masks. They could use masks. Lots of people hide behind masks.”
Lots of people do hide behind masks.
You do. I do.
Even if we love the Lord, and daily commit to follow and honor Him, we often choose masks. We hide behind facades. We present ourselves to others in ways that insure we’ll be seen and accepted as the mannequin-perfect version of ourselves.
We don’t want to be exposed. Exposure means vulnerability. Vulnerability can mean rejection. Vulnerability can mean that the person we want to impress (feel loved by) is unimpressed. We might sense that the person sees us as an imperfect burden who must be endured.
Being endured hurts.
So we, when we don’t turn to our gracious Lord for acceptance and comfort, put on toe-covering shoe-masks. And if we as adults do this, what must children, more vulnerable and unable to name their feelings, feel?
So here are questions we should ask ourselves:
- Are we teaching our children to be posed mannequins, or to be real?
- Do we inadvertently teach them to cover and hide faults instead of coming clean and being washed by grace before the Lord?
What is our parenting goal? To raise authentic human beings who glorify God by being honored to be who they are, and not posing behind false exteriors; or, are we raising children who live in fear of being found out?
Are we brave enough to teach our kids that it’s glorious to be “average”? Do we allow them to fail, speaking into their hearts a response we ourselves would yearn to hear:
“It’s OK that you messed up. I’m still so proud of you, and I’m here for you. You tried, and it’s so OK that you weren’t perfect. I always love you.” (And all the while offering a consoling, grace-filled hug.)
Or do we push children to be above average because we’re afraid to trust God with His glorious plan for them? Will we let their toes be flesh and blood? Or, will we teach them, even subconsciously, that they must perform and pose in order to be valuable?
“Why do parents long to have above average children? And why are children willing to go along with their Herculean efforts to achieve such status? … We want kids who can beat the odds to attend the best schools, which will lead to the most rewarding jobs…
We are all tempted to want our kids to soar above the masses, to encourage them to dream big and reach for the stars. But we must think biblically about this temptation…
We must shift their focus from themselves to God and shift their motivation from self-glory to God’s glory. If your children have an interest or talent that sets them apart from their peers, thank God for it. And teach your children to do the same. Then encourage them to develop that skill to serve others. Everything they have is from the Lord. Nothing is theirs by their own doing. They (and you) have no reason to boast (1 Cor. 4:7). (Most of our children are average, ERLC article; read the whole piece here.)
We must remember to approach our children (and all people) as we’d want to be treated ourselves, giving life-salving words when they discover they’re average, or below-average in any area. We ourselves want freedom to mess up, to hear grace instead of law spoken to us in our weaknesses. To have real toes.
And we want kids with real toes. Real lives. Kids who know that average or below-average days are always allowed — with each day lived for the glory of God, not lived to hide imperfections from others. We want them to be freed from masked lives performed for the glory of man.
We want messier if need be. Messier, yes, but real.