This article was orginally published in The Joyful Life Magazine and Christian Parenting.
“Didn’t you know? We live like animals around here,” I said, a bit embarrassed as we watched my daughter climb through our window, cradling a rabbit. The other mom’s face lit up. “Oh, we don’t have screens, either,” she said, smiling. “But I did notice your kids don’t wear shoes very often.” She proceeded to list the various times and events at which she’d witnessed my children without shoes.
The funny thing is, I didn’t recall half the times she mentioned. Jesus help me, I thought, I truly am raising animals. My head sunk back as they waved goodbye. The admission slipped out in a single breath, “Jesus, there are so many holes in my parenting.” His Spirit whipped back sharp and clear: It’s okay. I’m the One who can make them holy.
God isn’t surprised or disappointed that I’m not a perfect mom. If my kids do miraculously grab a shoe, they can’t find the other one, anyway! Still, I imagine He delights in watching their naked toes running through the grass.
He must’ve been pleased with His servant Moses, barefoot before the burning bush, and with Joshua, a mighty warrior, barefoot before the battle. “Take off your sandals,” He commanded them both, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15). Holy translates to ‘set apart.’ Before both men were commissioned into a form of battle, God first asked them to remove their shoes. I couldn’t help but think of how parenting sometimes feels like a battlefield. Is God asking us to remove our shoes as well? And if so, why?
In ancient culture, removing one’s shoes had great significance. It could signify many things: reverence, submission, the redemption of property, transfer of power, showing the legality of a purchase, or even a symbol of giving up one’s rights. It is a symbol of relinquishing control and humbling ourselves.
Yes, God can make the holes in my parenting holy. He can replace my anxiety with peace, exhaustion with a renewed mind, and frustration with joy. For this to happen, however, I need to give up my parental rights and hand them over to the perfect Father. There are areas in the hearts of my children that I can’t reach, no matter how hard I strain.
There are tears I don’t see.
There is pain they don’t share.
There are lies they believe.
There is innocence I can’t protect.
Let’s be honest, we never get the whole story of what happens at school; it isn’t possible to intercept every cruel word and relationship thrown at them. Sometimes things slip between the cracks. These places are holy ground. They must be set apart for the Lord. There is freedom when we learn to surrender our children to the perfect Father.
No matter how hard we try, there will be days our kids aren’t wearing shoes at Costco. Sometimes this happens because we are just human parents, stomping around in our big ole’ boots, thinking we’ve got this parenting thing all figured out. We may even think we love our kids more than God does. This lie violently twists and tightens around our shoes, making it feel impossible to ever take them off in submission. I’d lay down my life for my children in a heartbeat! But their Father in Heaven has already given everything for them.
I can’t beat that. I can’t love as God does.
When we yank those shoes off, the rocky terrain of faith may bruise and bloody our sensitive soles. Praise God! We have a Savior who kneels and cradles those steadfast mama feet. He gently washes and restores. Tenderly fitting them with readiness and peace, He prepares us to follow Him into battle (see Ephesians 6:15).
God’s ways are better for our children because His love is bigger. No parenting class, yoga pose, discipline strategy, special smoothie, or supplement will help us to fill in the tender areas where we fail as parents.
May we be a generation of parents bowing before the Great I AM, taking off our shoes, and declaring, “Only through His strength can we battle for the lives of our children!” He is the only Father that can comfort their silent whimpers, mend their broken spirits, heal their bruised hearts, and whisper directly to their souls, “you are loved, you are seen” when we cannot. May we intentionally dedicate them to the Heavenly Father, who never fails.
Parenting is holy ground. Let us be barefoot before the Lord.