The couple stood just a few yards inside the entrance to the zoo. In their late sixties, it was obvious that the ten-year-old girl, and five-year-old boy were their grandchildren. The struggle began when they passed the well-placed gift shop and the tempting stuffed animals and souvenirs that dangled over the breeze-way, tempting customers.
The young boy, twice the size of most kids his age, began to yell. And cry. And flop on the ground. His sister stood by nonchalantly, shuffling her feet. Grandpa could be seen walking back 50 feet to the shop that rented strollers.
I stood with my children, 100 feet ahead of them, watching the skittish antics of meerkats, but even I could hear the wailing and see the commotion from a distance. Grandma was desperately trying to maneuver her out of control grandson to a bench, out of the way of the streaming crowds. People walked by, staring with curiosity, and blank expressions. No one stopped. No one helped. It was almost as if the passersby considered these human beings to be just another animal exhibit on display for their voyeurism.
I gave my husband charge over the stroller and made my way back towards the struggling woman.
“Hi, I'm Amber.” I said with an upbeat tone, “I can see you are struggling a little bit. Let me help you get him to the benches.”
Flustered, she was in no room to protest, so I began smiling, and asking the girl about the zoo, her age, etc. Gently, I tried to coax the young boy away from the crowds and squawking toy parrots.
“What a beautiful day to be out with family and see all the animals!” I said. He slowly began to calm and cooperate with us.
“My grandson is autistic.” the Grandma huffed and puffed as we made our way to the benches. “We were trying to give his parents a break today but he is very strong and I just couldn't do it.” she gasped.
“Thank you so much for helping me!” she said as the tears began to fall. The exertion and drama of the incident left her shaken and defeated.
“I'm so happy to help” I said, sincerely. “I know just how it is to be with kids having a meltdown. Mine do it too!” I assured her. It took a few minutes of consoling her, before she could dry her tears. My heart broke for her.
After a few minutes, the scene began to mellow and the kids were calm. Grandpa showed up with the stroller and they were able to get their grandson inside. I wished them well, telling them that they were going to have a great time at the zoo, and ran to catch up with my own family.
Do you know what that boy, that girl, and those grandparents desperately needed that not one person was willing to offer?
I didn't set out to solve the problem or fix the situation. I didn't even really know what to do. I just knew that what she needed more than anything was to know that she shouldn't feel shame, and that she and her grandson had value. They didn't have to hang their heads or be embarrassed. They could have dignity.
It wasn't long before that I had been in a similar situation.
I was having one of those moments. A moment were I lost my cool, and did something stupid. It was a moment that I wish had been private, but instead, had witnesses. In my moment of failure, those who watched had a lot of power. They could shame me further, or choose do dignify me.
Have you been there? Do you have a friend who knows all your darkest secrets, and yet dignifies you? Or have you been exposed as the sinner you are, and felt the stones pelt your already fragile skin? Which reaction describes how you handle the errors or sins of your children?
God tells us:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10
What comes to your mind when you think of the word, “Dignity?” Here are a few definitions according to dictionary.com:
1. bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation. 2. nobility or elevation of character; worthiness: dignity of sentiments. 3. elevated rank, office, station, etc. 4. relative standing; rank. 5.a sign or token of respect: an impertinent question unworthy of the dignity of an answer.
Let's think about what God says to us about how HE sees us and how HE treats us, despite our sin, and then let's emulate that towards our children.
God asks us to put ourselves in our children's shoes. We should treat them as we want to be treated. Consider your methods of discipline. Is your desire to reach the hearts of your children through training in righteousness, or is your method of discipline a form of punishment for wrongdoing? Are you keeping a record of wrongs or a visual reminder to your children that they have done something wrong? Does God do that towards us? Or does He overlook our sin, already paid on the cross, treating us with overwhelming grace and gentleness?
Does God rub our noses in our sin? Or does He dignify us as He did the women who was caught in adultery? Did Jesus punish her, or instruct her to go and “sin no more” encouraging her to show others grace as He showed her grace?
Does Jesus say that we should yell in anger, or does He say that a “gentle answer turns away wrath?”
Today, think about how your physical body LOOKS when you are angry and yelling. Look in a mirror at your face and see what your children see. Is it compassion? Do you look dignified? Are your eyes filled with love out of a mother's heart that desires to point your children to Jesus as you deal with their errors or immaturity?
Moms, demonstrate dignity today by treating your kids as Christ treats you. Watch your mouth. You can't praise God, and curse your kids. Consider your body language, and seek to dignify your children instead of shame them. Praise God for His loving-kindness, and do not fear that mercy is a form of letting your kids off the hook. It's the Biblical way to love God and love others.
Go out into today with dignity, knowing that you are cherished deeply by a forgiving and gracious God and model that for your children. Pick them up and dust them off. Dry their tears and help them seek composure, even when they resist you. Be the one to lift their chins, as God so often does for you. And when you have the opportunity to dignify someone else, don't pass on by like so many often do. Be a woman of dignity and grace.
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. Psalm 3:3
YOUR TURN! What can you do today to demonstrate dignity in your home or towards others? Have you ever felt undignified by someone? Can you remember a time when someone lifted your chin, and gave you a chance to feel dignity?
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