How To Help Little Ones Celebrate How God Made Their Bodies

  1. Share
1 0

I'm happy to welcome Francie Winslow back to the blog. You can learn more from Francie at her website.

I was cuddled up with my youngest son on the couch when the well-known cartoon “Blues Clues” popped up on the screen. Along with flashy colors came a classic tune, “Ants Go Marching One by One.” But instead of hearing the normal lyrics that I expected to match that familiar trumpeting song, I heard something much different. As the vibrant wave of colors and happy smiling faces filled the screen, I heard lyrics identifying a parade of families made up of trans-gender, ace, bi and pan sexual, non-binary, gay, and lesbian cartoon characters marching “one by one, hurrah, hurrah” across the screen. 

It was a wake up call. How do I begin discipling my toddlers and preschoolers to honor and love others AND to honor and love their good, God-given bodies? How do I start building a healthy, biblical sexual worldview for them even in their youngest years? I realized that the time for sticking my head in the sand has long gone.  

We all desire to give our kids a clear and beautiful view of sex and sexuality. But with the way things are changing so quickly in our culture, where do we start? And how young? And if we’re starting these “sex-talks” sooner, what exactly do we say to honor the truth of God’s Word along with our kids’ ages and development?  

Things are much more socially complex than ever before, and it can feel overwhelming, almost paralyzing. However, I actually believe that the direction of our culture towards more sexual confusion can become a place of gospel clarity and discipleship opportunity—especially when it comes to talking to our kids about our bodies. Rather than being a book of silence and rules about sexuality, God’s Word is a source of abundant hope, beautiful freedom, and life-giving truth. 

The most basic place we start in giving young children a solid foundation about sexuality is celebration. Clarity is the antidote to confusion. And when we celebrate something, we gain a fresh sense of joy, simplicity, and clarity around it. Celebration of the body as God’s good and meaningful gift is the first building block to disciple our kids in a healthy and integrated biblical sexuality, starting as young as preschool. 

Here are a few tangible examples of how I celebrate God’s good gift with my very young children. 

 

We celebrate that God calls us His masterpiece.

The philosophical worldview that is behind much of the confusion plaguing our children would have us believe that our bodies are meaningless matter, that we have evolved from an accidental bang, and that our bodies exist primarily for self-expression. This worldview demeans and devalues humanity on every level. However, we are invited to know a different reality. Christian theology holds to the belief that we were designed wonderfully and thoughtfully by a Designer who has good plans for our lives. Therefore, our bodies are meaningful masterpieces, meant not for self-expression, but for God-expression.

We have to take God at his word and trust that what He said is good is actually GOOD!  God formed male and female in His image and called them GOOD! He was the first to celebrate gender, sexuality, and the body! As they get older, they will be able to understand in more concrete ways how gender and sex are meaningful and point us to a larger Gospel story. But for now, a consistent and joyful celebration lays a strong foundation for more complex conversation later in their development.

When I pick up my youngest son from his crib, when I comb my 7 year old daughter's hair, when I help tie my 5 year old son’s shoes, when I stop what I’m doing to hug my pre-teen daughter as she walks into the kitchen, and many other times throughout our week, I use intentional words to speak life and truth over them with phrases like this: 

“God made you, and God loves you!” or

“You are a meaningful masterpiece!” or

“You are a boy, and it’s GOOD that you are a boy!” 

“You are a girl, and it’s GOOD that you are a girl!” 

We celebrate our bodies in order to solidify the truth that God purposefully, lovingly, and thoughtfully wove them together in the womb, and He sees them and knows them personally. We honor the fact that God calls them a masterpiece, His workmanship, which carries the Greek root meaning of poetry (Epheisians 2:10). All of us—mind, body, and heart—work together to display the rhythm, rhyme, beauty, and wonder of Heaven’s imagination and good purposes! Our children need us to celebrate the truth that they are not meaningless matter, but a meaningful masterpiece, made with love and intention (Psalm 139)!

 

We celebrate that our bodies reveal God. 

We celebrate the fact that God not only made us good, but called us His image bearers. This image bearing gift includes the way we understand God’s love for us, but also how we share God’s love with others. Image bearing glory is not limited to adults. Image bearing is an everyday reality for children, in big and small ways, just as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:3.  

Not only are our bodies marked with God’s own loving image, they are filled with God’s powerful Spirit! The Bible tells us that our bodies are temples, or dwelling places of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)! In this way, we can be sure that God wants to live in us and move through us in everyday moments with His powerful love.

If they’re old enough to enjoy a white board moment or a chat at the table with a paper napkin, an easy way to break this down is to draw a stick figure of a person. Put a big crown and heart in the chest space, reminding us that Jesus’ love lives in us. Then, talk through each part of the body and how our bodies are meant to show God’s love to the world!

 

For example, I might say things like this: 

“Our whole bodies were meant to know God’s love and show God’s love!  

Our eyes can know God’s love as we notice a beautiful sunset and see God’s awesome creativity. 

Our eyes can show God’s love as we look with soft eyes of compassion at a hurting friend. 

Our mouths can know God’s love as we read Bible stories! 

Our mouths can show God’s love as we share encouraging words with our friends. 

Our hands can know God’s love as we hold our parent’s hand and feel safety and comfort.

Our hands can show God’s love as we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbor. 

Our arms can know God’s love as we wave them and dance in joy and worship.

Our arms can show God’s love as we hug our brother after an argument. 

You can know God’s love, and show God’s love, with your body! You are a powerful image bearer, head to toe!“

The possibilities are endless as we continue to discuss all the ways our bodies can be a part of experiencing God’s love and sharing God’s love. It can even be a fun discovery as a family to notice and discuss at dinner about how you are learning this at school, at work, and at home. 

 

We celebrate God’s handiwork in nature. 

Romans 1:20 says that we know what God is like by noticing the things He created. This includes our bodies! But it also includes the beauty and glory of nature right outside our back doors. When we’re outside, I specifically look for parts of nature that reveal God’s glorious, fruitful ways, and we celebrate those wonders. We can see God’s fruitful handiwork in the changing seasons. We can see God’s mighty power in the tall mountains. We are amazed at the way that salmon, whales, monarch butterflies, sea turtles, and other animals base their migration cycles on reproduction. We see right in our back yard that God designed reproductive sexuality to be a beautiful part of flowers multiplying and spreading beauty. We take note of how the transfer of pollen (male) from the anther of a flower to a stigma (female) brings about fertilization, which then produces seeds and fruit. God loves reproduction, sexuality, fruitfulness, and growth! 

These lessons can grow and adapt with their ages, but examples of God’s magnificent, divine designs are all around us!  A simple way to start with the youngest family members is simply: “Wow! Look at God’s wonderful, fruitful world! He’s an amazing Creator!”

 

We celebrate the ways Jesus lived and loved, in His body.

Jesus came in a body, and through his life showed us how to live and love in our bodies (Colossians 2:9). Jesus modeled perfect love in all the ways he received love and gave love in everyday moments and through great sacrifice. With His words He spoke hope. With His tears He showed compassion. With His hands, He washed His friends’ feet. He even gave His own body for us on the cross, the ultimate act of love so that we could know God’s love personally. Just like Jesus, our bodies have meaning and power to communicate love and life and hope. That’s worth celebrating!  

As you read Bible stories with your kids, point out how practical and embodied Jesus' love often was. It wasn’t a wishful, illusive sort of love. It was a love lived out through family, community, relationships, and time spent together with those whose lives intersected His. It was a tangible and expressive love, as God lived in Jesus and moved through Jesus to literally change the world! 

Celebrating our good and meaningful bodies is a key to help build a solid foundation of sexual discipleship for our kids. As they encounter cultural messages from TV, entertainment, media, and education implying that their gender is meaningless, their body is a mistake, or their sexuality is only about “self expression,” they will have a better understanding of freedom-bringing Truth to stand on. They will begin to realize that human beings, boys and girls, are the crown of God’s creation. And through this posture of wonder, honor, and celebration, our children will be able to celebrate that they and their peers are indeed a marvelous, meaningful masterpiece. That they are image bearers, divinely designed for holy, powerful God-expression in and through their bodies. 

 

Learn how to give your kids a biblical view of sexuality by joining other moms in an online book study through Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality. New groups begin in June 2022!

Hear from the book's author Hillary Morgan Ferrer in Java #404: How to Help Your Kids Talk About Sex from a Christian Worldview




 

 

 

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.

Topics I'm Interested In

Comments

To leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

3
What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?
(Presione aquí para leer en español). If someone asks you, “What are your thoughts on cohabitation?” or “Do you believe God is ok with gay marriage?” how would you respond?  To answer those questions, you will (without even realizing it) tap into your underlying beliefs about the purpose of sexuality.  Every opinion you have about sexual issues is rooted in a larger narrative of what you believe about sex—and ultimately, God. Your sexual narrative is the background that helps you make sense of sexuality. It’s the backstory on why our sexual experiences and choices should matter.  Our culture’s changing views on issues like living together or gender fluidity come from an evolution in our sexual narrative. The larger culture now predominantly tells a humanistic narrative that honors human sexuality as a primary form of self-expression and identity.  In a recent study, the Barna group concluded, “Sex has become less a function of procreation or an expression of intimacy and more of a personal experience. To have sex is increasingly seen as a pleasurable and important element in the journey toward self-fulfillment.” If sex is an important part of self-fulfillment, experimentation and sexual “freedom” become very important avenues to maturity.  In contrast to this narrative, the traditional church narrative presents sexuality as a “pass or fail” test of moral character and religious commitment. In my last blog post, I wrote about the limitations of the traditional “purity narrative” of sexuality. If you read that post, you might have been left wondering. If “saving yourself for marriage” isn’t the complete Christian narrative about sex, then what is? To understand the fuller picture of Christianity and sex, we need to start with the premise that sexuality isn’t just about what happens here on earth. It was created by God as something sacred. Sexuality is fundamentally linked to intimacy. As much as our culture tries to push the concept of “casual sex,” there is nothing casual about it. Sexuality, as created by God, taps into our deepest longings and vulnerabilities.  Sexuality must first and foremost be understood as an earthly aspect of humanity that points to a heavenly truth. That truth is that we were made for intimacy. We were created with deep longings to be known, embraced, and loved eternally by a God who will never leave us nor forsake us.  We cannot understand marriage and sexuality until we understand what they were designed to point to. Our sexual longings symbolize the experience of being incomplete. A sexual encounter at best provides a momentary taste of what we were created to experience for eternity. Even within marriage, we continue to have these longings because marriage was never meant to fully satisfy them. C.S. Lewis eloquently states the angst of desire and disappointment: “The longing for a union which only flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable.” Marriage is the metaphor for the answer—not the answer itself!  God created the covenant of marriage to be an earthly experience that points to the eternal reality that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of His Church. He pursued her, sacrificed to make her holy, and was united with her through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are most fulfilled when we abide deeply with God. We get glimpses of that intimacy here on earth, but we are still left wanting! As Paul says, all creation groans for Christ to come and claim His people. While the cultural narrative worships sex as a source of our personal fulfillment, the biblical narrative presents sex as a sacred picture of longing, unity, and covenant. Its power is not in attaining sexual satisfaction but in recognizing the deeper longing it represents. This narrative gives a greater context to all things sexual. It explains the why behind the what.  It also helps us understand why sexual intimacy is celebrated within marriage but wrong when it happens apart from a covenant. It fleshes out why sexual betrayal is so difficult to recover from. Within this narrative, male and female are not interchangeable, because they represent Christ and the church. The Christian “rules” around our sexuality are there because they frame the picture of the true purpose of our sexuality. We were not created for sexual expression. We were not even created for marriage. We were created for intimacy. The greatest sex in marriage is a wonderful thing, but still a temporal pleasure meant to point to deeper longings. This is why the New Testament holds singleness in such high esteem. The ultimate good for a Christian is not a happy marriage but surrender to and unity with Christ Himself. Marriage and sexuality are holy metaphors to be honored but should never become idols that overshadow our longing to know God Himself.  Over the past several years, I’ve been studying and “unpacking” this biblical metaphor. The deeper I press into this mystery (and it is a mystery!), the more I’m understanding God’s heart for our sexuality. It helps me put into context my struggles as a wife, the disappointments I see and experience, and also why everything sexual is such a massive spiritual battlefield. My heart for you is that as you engage with Authentic Intimacy materials, you are not simply learning the Christian “rules” about sex, but are encountering God’s heart for you. Sex is not just about sex. It is a physical way that you experience what you were created for… eternal intimacy with a faithful God.    Read the first and second blog in this series. You may also find these follow-up resources helpful:  Java with Juli #218: Rethinking Sexuality in Your Life (member exclusive) Java with Juli #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual Java with Juli #166: We Are All Sexually Broken  Java with Juli #182: Your Generation and Your View of Sexuality
10
Masturbation: Is It Wrong?
Because my job is to talk to women about sex, there are few questions I haven't heard and haven't answered. However, there is one common question that I don't like to answer. Is it ok to masturbate? (Presione aquí para leer en español.)  This question is a bit complicated because the Bible never mentions masturbation. I’m fairly certain that even in biblical times, masturbation was something Christians wondered about and struggled with. God was very clear in spelling out the sexual immorality of other sexual actions, but said nothing specific in Scripture about masturbation. I could take the easy road and just say, "If in doubt, don't do it." The fact is that many Christian women masturbate and feel horribly guilty about it. I've met women who feel more shame about masturbation than they do about sleeping with their boyfriend. Masturbation is a complicated issue that doesn't lend to a clear black and white answer. I want to be realistic about the struggle without giving freedom that God perhaps hasn't given. At a purely biological level, masturbation isn't that much different than other things we do with our bodies—like picking our noses. Toddlers do both. They are wired to touch their bodies everywhere and repeat touching where they find pleasure. Little boys and girls quickly discover that their "private parts" feel really good to touch. As children grow, wise parents gently teach that touching some places of our bodies isn't appropriate to do in public. They teach their kids not to pick their noses in public either. But why does picking your nose have an embarrassing but non-moral stigma, while masturbation has become laden with tremendous guilt and shame? While there is nothing inherently wrong with touching yourself to experience pleasure, masturbation becomes a moral issue because it involves sexuality. Our sexuality has intrinsic moral and spiritual implications. In I Corinthians 6, Paul teaches that what we eat doesn’t really matter, but what we do with our bodies sexually is spiritually significant. Does that mean that masturbation is always sinful? Many Christian ministries consider masturbation the same as viewing porn or dwelling on sexual fantasies. I think the question needs a little more consideration. Here are a few things to consider as you evaluate the issue given your personal circumstances. 1) It’s the thought that counts. Masturbation is often more about dwelling on sexual things and promoting lustful thinking than it is about a physical release. If this is the case, the Bible is CLEAR that this is not God’s will for you. While masturbation may not be specifically called sinful, the sexual fantasies that usually go with it are. Many women only masturbate when they are thinking about or looking at something sexual. As Jesus stated, this is "adultery of the heart." "But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman [or man] with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Any time you are viewing, reading or thinking about something sexual for the purpose of arousal (apart from a married couple thinking sexually about one another), you are promoting lustful thoughts. For many women, this is a constant temptation. It’s difficult to get sexual thoughts and images out of your mind. My mentor (and AI co-founder) Linda Dillow gives great advice related to this: You can’t control what comes into your mind, but you can control what stays there. When you are tempted to look at porn or dwell on a sexual image or fantasy, kick that thought out instead of letting it fester in your mind. If this is something you regularly struggle with, come up with a strategy NOW. What can you do to put your attention toward something else? Call a friend, put on worship music or work on a project? 2) God cares about your heart. The Bible makes it clear that God is very concerned about our motives. When I talk with a woman who is asking about masturbation, I am more concerned about what is behind the struggle than I am about the act itself. Many women learned (or were even taught) to masturbate at very young ages. This is particularly true of those who have been sexually violated and "sexualized" in childhood. While I would never recommend masturbation, I recognize that sometimes the urge to masturbate is a symptom of deeper issues that need to be addressed. My encouragement would be to work toward healing and restoring a healthy view of holy sexuality, which are more central to wholeness than trying to eliminate the urge to masturbate. It is more effective to address masturbation as an issue of spiritual maturity than an issue of right and wrong. As you grow in your walk with God and as you develop a fuller understanding of His design for sexuality, masturbation will likely become less of an issue. God will give you wisdom that goes beyond the “white knuckle approach” of suppressing sexual desire. However, when all of your focus is on controlling your sexual longings and feeling shame because of the struggle, you may find yourself stuck in a self-destructive pattern. More important than the question, “Are you masturbating?,” I would want to ask, “Are you moving towards God’s design for your sexuality?” 3) Remember the purpose of sexuality. Our sexuality was created to draw us into covenant love. Without sexual desire, very few people would ever go through the sacrifice required to commit your life to another person. We would be content with work, hobbies and friendship. But our sexuality prompts us to think of romance, passion, intimacy and belonging to another person. One of the greatest dangers of masturbation (along with fantasy, hooking up, erotica and pornography) is the belief that we can satisfy our sexual needs without pursuing covenant love. I believe that many young men and women delay marriage because they have learned to “take care of” their own sexual desires instead of directing those desires towards the pursuit of lifelong love. The problem is that our bodies awaken sexually around eleven (or even earlier), while we are not financially and emotionally ready for marriage until at least a decade later. This is a new tension caused by modern “advancements” ranging from the hormones in our food to the growing demands of what it means to be an adult ready for marriage. In biblical times, the period between sexual awakening and marriage age was far shorter! It’s not realistic nor wise (or even legal) to encourage twelve year olds to pursue marriage as an answer to their sexual longings. However, we should be concerned with men and women in early adulthood who delay marriage and romantic pursuit by redirecting their sexuality toward self-pleasure. I know that many single women reading this blog want a covenant relationship. The fact is that there are more married-minded women than men. Single women are sexual. Even those who are committed to purity in mind and body have sexual hormones, dreams and thoughts that impact their bodies. Just like men have "wet dreams," many women masturbate and orgasm in their sleep. There are Christian leaders working with singles who believe that masturbation may be a way to stay sexually pure until marriage. While I would be very cautious to give that advice, I recognize that for some, masturbation is a way of channeling sexual urges away from the temptation to have sex. However, some research suggests that masturbation can increase sexual desire instead of helping relieve it. We also need to consider that masturbation promotes the belief and attitude that sexuality is about personal pleasure. Some men and women who regularly masturbate find that they have difficulty learning to share their sexuality appropriately once they are married. They only know how to sexually respond to their own touch. 4) Is it mastering you? (No pun intended.) The apostle Paul taught that "nothing should master" us. In other words, we shouldn't be controlled or addicted to anything. This applies to food, shopping, social media and also to masturbation. For many women, masturbation can become a way of escape from boredom, loneliness, depression, pain and stress. We learn at a young age to soothe ourselves with something that feels good. Some ways of coping with stress and boredom are clearly unhealthy, like drinking alcohol or cutting. Other forms of coping are destructive because they abuse an inherently good thing. For example, food is a wonderful gift. But a binge on ice cream and Doritos because you are lonely is abusing that gift. The same is true of sexuality. The neurochemicals released during sex and orgasm reduce stress, help you sleep and make you feel at peace. However, having sex outside of marriage or habitually masturbating is an abuse of the body's natural response to sex. If you are masturbating on a regular basis or use it to deal with negative emotions, I'd encourage you to find other means of coping. God gave us healthy ways to release the chemicals in your body that bring peace and contentment. Prayer, meditation, exercise, talking to a friend or creating something artistic might take more work, but they are alternatives to falling into an addictive cycle. 5) Am I honoring God with my body? "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). This verse can bring conviction regarding a lot of choices we make with our bodies, but it was written in the context of sexuality. If there is a "gold standard" question to ask, this is it. Some thoughts for married women: The most important question I would ask a married couple to consider related to the use of masturbation is, “Does this draw us into greater intimacy or interfere with intimacy?”. There is a huge difference between a selfish wife who masturbates because she is withholding sex from her husband and a wife who masturbates for the purpose of building intimacy with her husband. Consider, for example, a couple who is separated because of deployment or long-term illness. Is masturbation something that can support your marriage and your vows to be faithful to each other? This is a matter of both agreement and conscience. A husband and wife should talk and pray together about the best way to focus sexually on one another when sexual intimacy isn’t possible.  Masturbation becomes a problem when it is a secret kept from your spouse, if it is a replacement for sexual intimacy or if sexual thoughts go outside of thinking about just the two of you. Many married women can only orgasm if they stimulate themselves. While I’d encourage women in this situation to work towards teaching your husband how to pleasure you (I recommend the book The Married Guy's Guide to Great Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner), there is nothing wrong with touching yourself during sexual intimacy. You are sharing a sexual experience with your husband. Growing sexually requires you to explore your bodies together. Masturbation can even be beneficial for a married couple in cases of sexual dysfunction. A very common form of sex therapy called "sensate focus" helps a woman pay attention to how she responds to sexual touch, first by touching herself and then by guiding her husband's hand as he touches her. This can be an important step in healing, particularly for women who have experienced sexual trauma that triggers anxiety at sexual touch. Final Thoughts: I have great respect for women (married and single) who want to honor God with their sexuality. I believe masturbation is an issue that each woman has to ask the Lord about. While God didn’t specifically address masturbation in the Bible, God did tell us that He wants to give us his wisdom. "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking" (James 1:5). God is the High Priest who understands your questions and struggles. Even in this most intimate (and perhaps embarrassing) issue, don't be afraid to pour out your heart to him and ask for his specific direction and wisdom.   You may be interested in these follow-up resources: Is Masturbation a Sin? You May Be Asking the Wrong Question (Juli's blog) #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual #166: We're All Sexually Broken Why We Don't Experience Victory (Juli's blog) Three Things To Remember About Sexual Sin & Grace (Joy's blog)