What My Kids Taught Me In Their “Jesus Loves Me” Sweaters

JJG_1313Today’s guest post is from Emily Wierenga. Emily is a wife and mom of two. From her home in Canada, she writes from the heart and isn’t afraid to talk about issues she’s dealt with like eating disorders, infertility, body image, and more. Last year, Emily wrote a letter on her blog to Princess Kate about body image after pregnancy. It went viral with over 6 million views.

Emily’s most recent book Atlas Girl: Finding Home In The Last Place I Thought To Look is her memoir of how her broken places led her face to face with God.  I’m giving away a copy of the book today! You’ll see how to enter below.

In June of this year she founded The Lulu Tree, a non-profit dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda. All proceeds from Atlas Girl will benefit The Lulu Tree.  

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They insisted on wearing their matching knitted Jesus Loves Me sweaters.

My three and four-year-old sons had been invited to a birthday party where I knew they’d be the only Christians and I’d been hunting through their wardrobe trying to find the coolest second-hand clothes we had.

But they wanted to wear their Jesus Loves Me sweaters.

I’m ashamed to admit, I tried to convince them not to. How quickly I revert to the self-conscious girl in junior-high with the braces and head gear who spent every dollar she earned on brand-name clothes hoping someone would like this awkward preacher’s kid.

And so we went to the party where toddlers walked around in Tom’s shoes and seven-year-olds sported high-tops and low-hanging pants and the other parents couldn’t stop remarking on how sweet and lovely my boys were—because they were that day. They stood out, not just because of their sweaters, but because of the hugs they gave the other kids, because of the way they waited their turn and didn’t demand, because of the way they giggled over the babies and said “Thank you” after receiving cake.

I just stood with tears in my eyes as my sons shone in the darkness.

Jesus tells us to become like children. He tells us to gain their humility, their lack of self-consciousness, their truthfulness and curiosity. He tells us to walk fearless into the world, in our knitted Jesus sweaters, not because we’re trying to make a statement, but because the sweater delights us and that’s what matters. We are to know no shame, much like Adam and Eve before eating the forbidden fruit.

I still remember standing in a gas-station parking lot; I was five years old, and people-watching as I always did. I watched the family in the car next to ours, laughing and talking and then the father noticed me staring, and gave me the finger.

I didn’t even know what the finger was, but he did it with such venom I felt the meaning. Storyteller Al Andrews talks about the moment the snake comes into our garden and steals our innocence, and while it wasn’t a seemingly huge moment, I’ll never forget the way my innocence was stolen that day. I became ashamed. I stopped openly observing the world, and began to fear people’s responses. And ultimately, this led to me starving myself at nine years old.

But the thing about regaining our freedom, our “child-likeness” in Christ is— it means no longer letting our identity be determined by this world. And this means, desiring not only for us to know Jesus—in his death, and his resurrection—but for our children to know Him too.

I was so afraid of people’s response to my children’s clothing I’d forgotten my God-given role as their mother: it was not to protect them from this world, but to lead them to the heart of their heavenly father. They will never be able to openly admit needing Jesus if I try to cushion their falls. If I try to keep them from knowing rejection or loneliness, or from being given the world’s finger.

It was through my eating disorder that I met God face to face.

If I truly want my children to know Christ, I need to step back and allow them to break.

It’s the hardest thing in the world.

Remember that mother in Matthew who brought her sons to Jesus and requested they sit next to him in the kingdom?

It’s all any of us wants, isn’t it? For our children to be recognized and praised?

But Jesus’ response was, let those who want to become great, become servants. The last shall be first.

So often we think we are teaching our children.

But that day at the birthday party, I realized how much I had to learn from them.

To become like a child is to encounter heaven on earth.

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What about you? Can you think of a time that your kids taught you a lesson?  Anyone who comments on today’s post, will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Emily’s memoir, Atlas Girl!

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9 Responses to What My Kids Taught Me In Their “Jesus Loves Me” Sweaters

  1. Erin says:

    Wow! What a powerful illustration! Yesterday’s “Our Daily Bread” was about this very challenge – becoming like children as we approach Jesus. I’ll be reading more from Emily – whether I win her book or not! :-)

  2. Pam says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart and being so vulnerable. Your words really touched my heart. I sometimes forget the importance of letting my children fail; how else will they learn to reach out to God in their need? Thank you again.

  3. Holly says:

    I tend to keep dwelling on things that make me frustrated or angry. Seeing how my almost-3-year-old son can go from being angry at me to wanting to snuggle with me and read books together has challenged me to let things go much sooner than I normally would. I can be frustrated, but then I need to move on and keep loving whoever made me frustrated in the first place.

  4. Lisa White says:

    My 11 yr old daughter has a budding eating disorder; and I want to take it all away… make it all better for all my children. But I know all I can do is point them to the One who really can take our troubles on Himself and someday will make all better.

  5. Olivia Ryan says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story with such grace and honesty. I’m learning about “Being me, Bravely” in MOPS this year and God is reminding me over and over what this looks like. What a GIFT that your children represented Christ well that day at that party :)

  6. Thank you so much for hosting me Jill. Bless you. e.

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