(Not) Earning God's Love, by Jacqueline DeSelms-Wolfe

I imagine the people I grew up around down here in the Buckle of the Bible belt worry about their child calling to say they are gay or that they got a tattoo of Satan on the right side of their neck where there is no way to cover it, even for the best of job interview opportunities. I worry about those things too, but not because I think my children will end up burning in hell, but because I think they will experience a judgment hell here on earth by those who think they know what is good and wholesome and what is bad and worthy of an eternity in the pits of fire.  It is one reason we have resisted going to church services with our children. We don’t want them to think they have to earn God’s love by being the way others think they should be. 

My son, who has long hair and DOES NOT want to cut it because he likes the way it feels, also wishes he had brown eyebrows instead of his God-given, beautiful light red ones. (Maybe we should start taking them to church so they can learn about God’s BLESSINGS like red, beautiful hair and the eyebrows to match?)

For his biography day project last year, he wanted to be Squanto and insisted we dye his hair brown and that his eyebrows should match, so I bought temporary hair dye and an eyebrow make-up color thingy.  I don’t know what the heck that thing is called. 

It’s a year later, and he somehow has kept that make-up thingy around. Occasionally, he will walk out of his bedroom with his eyebrows colored a very dark brown. I cringe every time–both because it looks crazy and because I don’t know what he is thinking. Is he self-conscious? Does he like to dress-up? What does it all mean?

I asked my husband, “Should we worry?”

“About what?”

“Well, what if it doesn’t stop with the eyebrows?”

“I worry sometimes too, but I don’t know why. It’s not like he’s walking out in a mini-skirt and high heels. And, even if he did, it shouldn’t matter.”

“I know it shouldn’t. I know that with my whole being, but it’s hard. He also loves my trench coat. When his eyebrows are brown and he has that coat on, my heart sinks. I don’t want it to. I want to love and accept every part of him, even when he’s wearing make-up and my coat.”

But it’s hard when you grow up in a world where different = bad. And when my kids do something that is different or against the grain, it is as if I’ve done it and that I’m bad. What will people think of me if my son wears long hair and colors his eyebrows? I don’t post those pictures on Instagram. I fear not only the judgment of him but also of myself.  Instead, I post him doing cool things like playing drums like a bad-ass or doing something sweet like building a tower of rocks on a beach in the beautiful part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I assume only good judgment will come across with those posts in the form of likes and comments like “oh wow, he’s so good.” Or, “Your children are amazing.” And while those comments are true (he is great at drums and my children are amazing), what if I posted a picture of my son with make-up and an oversized coat and hash-tagged something about how this is his normal way of being? That this is him

If I don’t want my children to think they have to earn God’s love, then they shouldn’t feel that they should have to earn our (my husband’s, my and/or our Instagram followers) love either.  Not that we let them do whatever they want whenever they want. We have rules and expectations, as we should. The number one rule in our home, though, is: Be Kind. Be Kind to ourselves, Be Kind to the environment and Be Kind to each other. 

Some examples? Don’t beat up your sister, clean up your room and wear make-up, long-hair and a trench coat if it feels good and if you like it, because if you are kind to yourself, being kind to others and the world around you comes much more easily. 

Because I’m not yet the perfectly loving mother that I want to be, I have a no eyebrow make-up to school rule–both because I’m not there yet and because I have to be at school with him (I own the school). If other kids made fun of him, I might die on the inside. Baby steps, but steps none the less.  Until the next day like this. 

Jacqueline DeSelms-Wolfe, MEd

Estuary Blogger