Life-long Patterns

Friday, October 29, 1999

Proverbs 22:6 – Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)

The other day I was listening to a grandmother recount her joy at the progress her granddaughter was making in toilet training. She had just had a "successful sit" when the child stood up, turned around, looked down, and said: "Wow, awesome!" The mother and grandmother burst out laughing in joy. I was pleased to hear how they were training this child. They were instilling a positive and healthy attitude toward her human bodily functions. They were also deliberately staying away from shaming, berating, disgust, guilt and similar inducements to learning this new skill. I reflected on how different her life would likely be in this regard, in comparison to those who have been shamed and bullied into being toilet-trained.

Over the years I have run into many who were embarrassed and uncomfortable with this aspect of their humanity. They could never accept that this was a normal, God-created, aspect of their humanity. When digestive tract problems occurred they were hesitant to go to their doctor, or to seek help. They made deliberate efforts to stay away from public washrooms lest someone see them there. They were horrified and fearful when anyone mentioned the subject. When they became older, and incontinent, they were devastated by their condition, feeling humiliated and ashamed. It was more than the trauma of ageing and loss of control. They were haunted by a sense of failure and worthlessness that originated in their early childhood experiences. The way they had been trained as a child had stayed with them into their old age. I wondered how often, out of our lack of awareness or insensitivity, out of our desire to make our children socially acceptable, we sin against them and create life-long patterns of guilt and shame that are not Christ-like. Jesus came to earth, God incarnate, bearing our human flesh, telling us of God's great unconditional love for us. Yet we so often fail to apply this wonderful truth to the simplest and most common aspects of our lives. But then I have never heard a sermon, Bible class or Sunday School lesson on Jesus and toilet training. What fun that could be!? Wow, awesome! (heh heh!!)

Prayer: Lord of all life, thank you for the mystery and wonder of your unconditional love for us, that touches all areas of our lives. Help us to enjoy and celebrate our humanity and not be shamed into distancing ourselves from our own human bodies. Help us in all things to discover your love and to serve you through the grace of Christ our Lord. Amen.

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About the author:

Tijs Theijsmeijer
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

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