Many Differences, One Image – Helping Children See the Beauty in Others

I love watching my two-year-old, Sutton, interact with other kids. She loves other people, especially when they are her size. When we are out in public and she sees another child, she normally will say to me, “Look mommy! A friend!” Everyone is her friend and it’s precious. The best part about her “friends” is that there are no qualifications for being a friend. She doesn’t care if another child is a boy or girl; black, brown, or white; rich or poor. All she wants is a friend to play and explore with. This is really all any child wants. They don’t care about what someone else looks like. Kids just want to be friends. As I have been reflecting on everything going on in our world lately, God has been using my daughter’s sweet spirit to remind me of His design for mankind. God desires for us to love each other, and not just the people who look like us. We should be seeing every person as a valuable image-bearer of the Father. As Christians, we are called to treat everyone with the kindness and compassion that Christ would – especially when they are different than us.

Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are all created in God’s image. Every single person is a reflection of the Almighty Creator. Even though there are many differences between us, when it comes down to our very being – who we are at the core – we all bear one image – God’s. The most important way we can reflect God’s image is in our love for one another. When we love others regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, social status, etc., we are showing our children what it means to love like God does.

Our world has been in such a heavy, dark place lately. If you read my last blog post, you know that I am no longer content with being silent when it comes to the unfair treatment of our darker-skinned brothers and sisters. I have learned that simply not being racist isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to say that I love everyone. My actions have to reflect that love. I have to do more and I have to start in my own home. I have to continue to foster my daughter’s love for all people. I have to answer her questions about why some people look different than we do when she asks them. I have to provide an example of what it means to speak out against injustice. I have to show her that our differences have been given to us by God and they are to be celebrated. Friends, we have to be aware of what we are teaching our children about others. Whether you realize it or not, you are teaching the children in your life how to view and value others. They are watching and listening to how you treat and talk about other people.

In working with young children for over 10 years, and now having a daughter of my own, I am convinced that humans are not born hating one another. We are not born with prejudice and bigotry in our hearts. These are attitudes that are taught and learned. Racist adults have not always been that way – they were once innocent children who liked everyone. Somewhere along the way, someone else’s racist remarks began to take root, and they adopted those beliefs as their own.

Think about your very first childhood friend. Why were they your friend? Chances are, it wasn’t because they looked a certain way. They were probably your friend because you had common interests or shared the same spaces. Now, as adults, we tend to make it so much more complicated. We have to see people for who they are as a person, rather than just the color of their skin. When we decide that someone is not worth knowing just by looking at them, we lose. We miss out on everything that that person has to offer. We could miss out on some truly amazing friendships and relationships. These are all things that we need to be teaching to the children in our lives.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., there are many ways that you can help your kids love people who look different than them. Read books and watch TV shows with character diversity, talk about different cultures and ethnicities rather than only focusing on your own, and celebrate God’s creativity reflected in us. I want to challenge you to intentionally focus on how you are encouraging your kids to love others this week. When your children see someone, are you helping them to look at who that person is in Christ – beyond what they look like on the outside? Last week, I made a promise to do better. Part of this promise will be intentionally encouraging my daughter to love others and to be thankful for all of our differences. I pray that by starting in my own home, I might be able to make a bigger difference in the world. I pray that Sutton will one day see a world where there is no racism, and that future generations will truly understand what it means to love others as Christ loves. I hope you’ll join me in praying for these things.

Precious in His Sight

I’ve gone back and forth on writing this post, and I finally just decided to go for it. I am going to have to be vulnerable, but I think that these are things that need to be said. These thoughts have been on my heart and mind, and getting them written down helps me to process it all. It is my prayer that they might help you, too. As I have been praying about all of the recent events going on in our world (most within the past week), God has shown me that staying silent can’t be an option anymore. I am heartbroken seeing the hatred and division within our country. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I do know that things have to change.

Growing up, my parents taught me to treat everyone with kindness. They taught me that if I truly love God, there can be no room in my heart for hate for anyone else (1 John 4:20). I have always believed that every person is here because God intended them to be, and that He loves every one of them. I believe that I will never look into the eyes of someone who Jesus does not love and did not die for. I value life. I have never considered anyone to be less than who God made them to be because they have more melanin in their skin than I do. As I have been reflecting on my own life, I am realizing that simply believing all of these things in my head isn’t enough – my actions must reflect what I believe.

I don’t ever remember intentionally treating someone differently because of the color of their skin. In high school, I often heard other white kids throw out racist comments to brown and black students. While I wasn’t one of the kids being blatantly hateful, I also was not one that stood up for my darker-skinned peers. I rationalized my inaction by saying that by not contributing to it, I was fighting racism. But I wasn’t fighting it – I was just observing it. This thought process has kind of gone with me into adulthood, and while I would always tell you how I believe that every single person’s life is valuable, I’m ashamed to admit that my actions might not have been a clear reflection of my beliefs. I am learning that inaction can sometimes be just as hurtful as partaking in the hateful behavior. Maybe your story is like mine. Maybe you have always thought that by not being the one who is blatantly racist, you were doing the right thing. I am learning that in order for me to make a difference in the world, the difference has to begin in my own heart. I have to be more aware of my surroundings. I cannot be passive. I cannot turn a blind eye when I see a darker-skinned person being treated differently.

I am so thankful that I had parents who taught me to value other people, regardless of their race or ethnicity, very early on in my life. It is my prayer that I can help my daughter to see the beauty in others. She has to know that God created us all and He loves us all. Let’s help our children to appreciate what someone else can bring to the table, especially when they look different than they do. May the world that our children live in in the future be one that is more loving, more compassionate, and more accepting. May future generations place more value in the worth of a brown or black person’s life. I pray that God would open our eyes, and help us to see others the way that He does.

To my brothers and sisters who have darker skin than I do: I just want to say that I am sorry. I am so sorry for the times when I have been oblivious to the oppression and struggles you encounter on a daily basis. I am sorry for staying silent when I should have spoken up. It has not been intentional by any means, but I realize now that I could and should have been doing so much more. I promise to do better. I promise to be more aware of how my actions are a reflection of how I value your life. I promise to speak up when I see injustice in the world. I pray that you will know how loved you are by your Creator, and that the rest of the world would understand that, too. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your life matters and your voice matters. Before you were even born, God knew you and had a plan for your life. You are an image-bearer of the Father. You are His child and He loves you. And, for what it’s worth, I love you too.

I’ll end with the lyrics to a song that I’m sure you all know. I sing this song often with my daughter and with other young children in my life. The words are simple, but they share a deeply profound message – today more than ever before.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white; They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.