Show, Don’t Tell: Helping Children Value Themselves and Others as God’s Image-Bearers

Show, Don’t Tell: Helping Children Value Themselves and Others as God’s Image-Bearers

by Xochitl Dixon in Leading Hearts magazine

When my five-year-old son barged into the bathroom, I stopped trying to tame my curls and gave him a once-over. “Your shirt is on backward.”

“I know. I want everyone to see Iron Man when I win races.” He hugged me. “Hurry. Everyone’s going to get to the park before us.” He left with a level of confidence I longed to attain.

I turned back to my reflection. What am I doing, Lord?

At first, I didn’t mind us being the only people of color in our new church playgroup. I didn’t even think twice about showing up in a T-shirt with my bad-hair-day locks tucked under a hat. But after a few meetings with the moms dressed in casual chic outfits at the park, I fretted over saying, doing, and wearing the wrong things.

Forcing smiles, I nodded as they chatted like lifelong friends about topics that didn’t interest me. Still, a part of me longed to be more like these women. I wanted to feel like I belonged.

One of the moms, who was different from me in every way, invited me to study the Bible with her. Over time, God nurtured a genuine friendship between us. As I grew closer to God, I grew closer to His people and discovered five life-changing truths from Psalm 139 to build my confidence as His image-bearer.

1. God knows everything about me and still claims me as His child (Psalm 139:1-6).

When loneliness tempts me to try to fit into someone else’s version of an acceptable mold, God affirms I’m good enough just as He created me . . . quirks and all. He chooses to call me His child and uses me to love others from the overflow of His endless love for me. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6).

2. God never leaves me or lets me stray beyond His reach (Psalm 139:7-12).

When life’s circumstances make me feel overwhelmed or alone, my everlasting Father assures me that His “right hand will hold me fast” (v. 10). He is my Savior, my Maker, and my Sustainer, who desires to be in relationship with me.

3. God created me on purpose and with purpose (Psalm 139:13-18).

Though insecurities try to hijack my days, God affirms His “works are wonderful,” and that includes me. All the days, even bad-hair days, “ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be” (v. 16). I may not be able to understand His plan or project His pace, but I can count on His constant presence and unchanging character.

4. God doesn’t need me to fight His battles (Psalm 139:20-22).

Though the enemy strives to cause division within God’s family, Scripture reveals the true battle is fought in the spiritual realm. When we pray together, God empowers us to stand in unity and love as we learn to serve together.

5. God helps us grow so we can love Him and others until He returns or calls us home (Psalm 139:23-24).

As we grow closer to God, we can invite Him to align our hearts and minds with His.

The more we intentionally nurture our relationships with God and each other, the easier it becomes to see ourselves and others through His lens of truth and love. Then, we can celebrate our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse people.

That day at the park, I watched my son encouraging his friends after winning and losing races . . . while wearing his shirt backward. His confidence wasn’t tied to His performance or his appearance.

Knowing relationships would eventually become more complicated, I wanted to prepare him to thrive in faith and fellowship with God’s people. But I first had to muster up the courage to invite God to change me.

Our children won’t need our lofty lectures when they see us valuing ourselves and others as God’s image-bearers. So, I invite you to pray with me:

“Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Xochitl with Callie, her Service Dog.

Xochitl Dixon, author of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, serves as a regular contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her first children’s picture book, Different Like Me (August 2020) celebrates the differences and sameness of God’s beautifully diverse people. Her work has been featured in Second-Chance Dogs (2018), All God’s Creatures (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022), Our Daily Bread’s God Hears Her (2017), Moments of Peace for Moms (2019), God Sees Her (2020), and more. Serving Jesus with her service dog, Callie, Xochitl encourages spiritual growth through community. She enjoys family time and connecting with readers at www.xedixon.com.

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