Friday, December 22, 2023

I Tell My Children They Are Good

I tell my children they are good. 

I whisper it into their ears at night, when we are snuggled beneath their covers waiting for sleep. 

"You are good," I say. "I love you no matter what," I promise. 

"Okay," they say. "I love you, too," as they squeeze in closer.

When I take my daughter shopping for a school dance, we read over the dress code. Nothing tight, must have straps, legs covered to an acceptable degree. I tell her we'll comply, about following guidelines in places we've agreed to be in, but in the same breath I make sure she knows her body is not shameful. 

"Your shoulders are not sinful. Your body is beautiful. Our bodies are not inherently bad." 

From the passenger seat she looks at me with a bemused glance and laughs, "I know." 

I know, she says. She knows. 

I tell my children they are good. 

I tell them about their Imago Dei, about the Imago Dei in others. 

"We are made in God's image. Everyone is made in God's image. Treat them like it. Treat yourself like it." 

Yes, mom. We know, mom. Moooom. 

I say it over and over. Remind them when they are angry, when they are heartbroken, when their tongues become sharp. I want it ingrained in their brains, the way it is already written in their DNA. 

I tell my children they are good. 

They already know the world is broken, humanity along with it. Maybe not in so many words, but they exist in this place and so they know.  

I knew it, too, at their age. I know it still now. 

But I did not know I could be good. That I was good. 

How could you know that you are good when you are being taught that you are no better than the worms in the dirt? That, sure, God loves you, but out of obligation. In spite of yourself, not because of yourself, His creation. 

Aren't we so blessed that He deigns to look in our direction? Us, vile creatures that we are? 

Sure, He is Love, but what really is love anyway?

Love is patient
Love does not dishonor 

Love is short-tempered
Love does not think you are good


I tell my children they are good. 

I tell my daughters they are good, before they are told they are not. Before they are told they are meant for silence and submission. Before they sit in church meetings and sermons and cultures that question their voices or worse, don't hear them at all. Before they twist themselves in knots every Sunday, wondering if their clothes cover their terrible, sinful bodies enough. I tell my daughters they are good. 

I tell my sons they are good, before they are told they are not. Before their softness can be shamed out of them. Before power can be demonstrated to them as domination and bending people to their will, before they cannot bend themselves anymore. Before they wonder just how closely they really need to listen to voices quieter than their own. I tell my sons they are good. 

I tell my children that they are loved, that they are love. I tell my children about their Imago Dei, in the hopes they will not hate themselves into utter darkness. That they will, in turn, understand a Creator's goodness. 

I tell my children they are good. 

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