I learn a lot about myself from my kids. Especially now that we’ve reached tweendom.
“Sweetie, you need to wear a tank under this T-shirt. It’s too see-through.” I tugged at my daughter’s top and examined the thin yellow fabric.
“But I don’t want to wear a tank. I’ll be too hot,” she argued.
“Well then you can choose a different shirt.”
“But I want to wear this one!”
“Then you need the tank,” I stood firm. “Plus that shirt isn’t long enough for leggings, so the tank will help cover your tush. Unless you want to change into shorts.”
Heaven help. Is this the response I’m bound to hear now, a hundred times a day until my baby graduates? But Mooooooom. But, but, but!! And she’s only ten. So I’m trying to establish the foundation, right? Mom has some wisdom, sweet child. Please accept it. Please!
Because things will not go well for you if you don’t.
At that moment, I paused my mad morning rush just long enough to look into her face. I think “crestfallen” sums up what I saw in her expression, her body language, her heart.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I softened my tone and rested my hands on her arms.
“Nothing.” And yet her mouth trembled.
“Please tell me.”
She burst into tears.
“It’s just that… you told me I could start picking out my own outfits.”
Oh, booger. She’s right. I did. We’d had the conversation just a few days earlier. I had encouraged her independence, her creativity, her own personal style. And yet, as she told me now, for the past three mornings I’d been squashing her choices with my own motherly input. And she finally broke.
“Baby, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I do want you to choose your own look. You’re old enough to decide what you like and what you don’t, and I support that. But—it’s still my job to teach you what’s appropriate. Can you understand?”
There is a difference between the freedom to choose anything and the freedom to choose the right thing. This applies to so much more than clothes. It applies to you and me, too, in a million different ways.
“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NLT).
Early Christians made the same “but Mom” argument. We don’t live under the law anymore! I can make my own choices!
True. If our spot in heaven is guaranteed by faith and not by following the rules, then technically we can do whatever we want and it won’t affect the final outcome.
But it will affect the many, many years in between.
If you’ve surrendered to Jesus, you can technically gossip about that woman in your Bible study group and God will still love you. But your friends might not trust you for long.
You can nag your husband day after day and, according to sound doctrine, God will still let you in the doors. But your lifelong marriage might grow cold and distant. You’ll lose a chance to learn how to love another imperfect soul the way God loves us.
And you can complain about every little thing, choose to live your life entitled or jealous or unforgiving, and on your dying day you will still squeeze through the gates of heaven as one escaping through a fire. You can do that.
But it benefits you nothing in the meantime—and worse—it deprives the world of the person you could have been, if you’d lived according to God’s love and kindness.
So. I told my daughter she could pick her own outfits, yes. But there will be parameters, and it’s my job to teach her how to choose well within them.
Likewise, we have much freedom in Christ. The Christian life is the most amazing, abundant, hope-filled path any human being can choose! But God has parameters, too, and the Bible teaches us how to live within them—for our own good.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, NASB).
So yes, ladies, wear whatever you want, be whomever you are—the woman God made you to be. He’s in the business of creating unique and beautiful people. But a few ground rules cannot change.
Do not lie, steal, covet or cheat.
Put nothing ahead of God.
Fuel your spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And, if you’re ten, cover your butt with your tank top. Please.
Then your life will be protected and blessed by the One who knows what’s best for us, even when we disagree.
Back to my little teachable moment in the Kopitzke house. I’ll tell you that my daughter chose the tank. With the T-shirt and the leggings, and she looked one hundred percent “herself” that day.
“Sweetie, did your outfit work out okay?” I asked that evening as I unclipped a safety pin holding her tank in place. (It was my tank, actually. A little big but, it was seriously cuter on her than on me. I’m telling you, the tween years, ladies. They creep up fast and suddenly we’re sharing clothes. My daughter claimed three of my sweatshirts just last week. So I guess her style isn’t so unlike her mom’s after all, eh?)
“Yes, it worked great,” she said. “I wasn’t too hot or anything. And Mom?”
“Yes, my love?”
“I got some mud on your tank top. Is that okay?”
“I’m not worried,” I smiled. “You made a good choice.”
Bleach is an easy fix. Her heart—a little more complicated. So I’ll keep working on it, pouring into it, teaching and guiding and encouraging. We are shaping God’s next generation of believers, after all, and nobody said it would be easy.
But it does have some perks.
Like a shopping trip, twist my arm.
We need some more tanks.
P.S. My daughter gave me full permission to share this incident. I emailed her what I wrote, and this was her reply:
Mom, thank you for showing this to me before you posted this. You have asked me permission and I say yes. I loved the last few lines. I think another date is in order. Except I’m broke so this one is on you.
Yep. That’s my tween queen. Love her so much.
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