Think first about yourself and how you, like everyone else, still hide. We might not head for the closet, but we all have parts of us that we would prefer unseen. We don’t want our sins to be seen, and we don’t want our mistakes or substandard performances to be on display. We are all concerned about our reputations. We don’t want to be found unacceptable. We don’t want to be among the left-out or passed-over. Wouldn’t it be nice if our children could learn how to talk to Jesus about this rather than simply become more skilled at looking good on the outside?
Shame is the experience of feeling unacceptable, less than others, or different. Sometimes we feel shame because we did something wrong and we can go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, but shame is more often a result of being treated badly or simply believing we lack something and don’t fit in.
Notice the language of shame: inferior, weak, inadequate, rejected, loser, nothing, different, ignored, failure, bullied, misfit, unattractive, stupid, unpopular, embarrassed, unwanted, stared at, last. Your child will inevitably feel some of these. The good news is that God knows that shame is part of the human condition, and he is doing something about it. Ever since Adam and Eve, people have been hiding, and God has been pursuing in love. He speaks words that build us up when we feel beyond repair and unacceptable.
Ways to Pursue with God’s Love and God’s Words
1. “Pour out your heart” (Psalm 62:8).
Children need help putting their emotions into words. The more they speak, the better. You might say something like this, “God likes you to talk to him. He likes you to tell him what was great about your day, what was hard about your day, and where you want help. Let’s do that now. Do you want to pray with me?” That’s how we live with those we love, and that’s how we live with our God who loves us. We speak what is on our heart. The psalms can guide us. Do you have a favorite psalm you can share with your children to help them put words on their experience? You could try Psalm 34, 91, 130, and many others.
2. Connect their story to the Bible.
Your challenge as a parent is to connect the struggles of everyday life to God’s good words. In this case, clothes could be that connection. Remind your children that Jesus gives us new clothes. Most children have some sense that the right clothes— the cool clothes—can bring some dignity to life.
In the Bible, people could never be adequately covered by their own clothes. They needed God’s covering. The Bible begins with do-it-yourself fig leaves and it ends with God’s wedding garments (Revelation 19:7–8). In the meantime, think of Joseph’s coat (Genesis 37:3), the priests’ garments (Exodus 28), and the clothes God gives us for spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:11–17).
The beginning of the conversation might go like this. “Most of us have clothes we really like to wear. Do you have any favorite thing to wear?” “When we trust Jesus, he covers you so you don’t have to hide. He gives you new clothes that are the best. He actually makes you look strong. Like a soldier. With spears and swords and armor and shields.” Then go over Ephesians 6:11–17.
3. Connect their story to Jesus.
The clothes show us that we are connected to a very important person. They are Jesus’s clothes, and they remind us that he is the one who covers us. Shame leaves us feeling very alone. Covering reminds us that Jesus chose us for his team, and he is the King. Our own reputation is not enough. That’s why we associate with those who we think are the right people. Children who are familiar with failure can know that Jesus’s clothes mean that he is their friend—only best friends let us wear their clothes—and nothing could be better.
Here’s how the Bible explains it: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.’” (Jeremiah 9:23–24 ESV). His words to us, “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1 NLT), are the best comfort after rejection and failure.
4. And repeat.
Shame will not be fully solved today. Instead, the Spirit of God reminds us of these truths and teaches us more. He reminds us that Jesus actually knows what it’s like to be unacceptable to the world. People even took his clothes. Then, having become like us, he invites us to join him when he rose from the dead and put on his kingly robes. He never leaves us alone, feeling as though we must hide.
The above content was adapted from Zoe’s Time to Shine. © 2022 by Edward T. Welch. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
Zoe’s Time To Shine: When You Want to Hide
Zoe Mouse loves to sing. She sings everywhere all the time. There is just one problem—she can’t carry a tune. One day she tries out for the school musical and tells all her friends she will definitely get the lead role. But instead of getting a part, her drama teacher asks her to help with the lighting. Zoe wants to hide, but she learns that when Jesus is near, you don’t have to hide. You can face your friends and shine a light on them.