Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Let your gentleness be known to all ...
~ Phil. 4:5

I wasn't trying to hurt my daughter. But I wasn't trying to not hurt her, either. And sometimes, that's the same thing.

Tera was six--old enough, I felt, to learn how to brush her own hair. Now, I'm not a monster (although you may disagree by the end of this post). I didn't simply toss the brush at her and say, "You're on your own." No, we went through Brushing 101 together first. I showed slides of various brushes, discussed the pros and cons of both natural and synthetic bristles, demonstrated the proper gripping stance, showed her how to start at the bottom and get the tangles out before moving to the top, and took her to a brush factory so she could get a real feel for the product.

She passed the course with top scores. She handled her final project (bed-hair) beautifully. So I assumed we'd have no problems. What I didn't count on was the soon-apparent fact that she didn't like brushing her hair.

"Tera!" I'd call up the stairs. "We're leaving in twenty minutes. Make sure your hair is brushed."

"K, Mom."

I'd check about ten minutes later. "Are you ready?"


And then, five minutes from go-time, she'd come galloping down the stairs and I'd discover the truth. She hadn't detangled so much as a single strand of hair.

"Didn't you hear me?" I'd ask.


"Then why isn't your hair brushed?"

"I didn't want to."

The first time or two, I felt perplexed. Then I moved straight to "vexed." The child was defying me, pure and simple. Worse than that, she was making me late. I have enough tardiness issues of my own without additional help from my children.

Soon, I dispensed with the niceties altogether. "Brush!" I'd yell upstairs. "Or I'll do it for you."

It didn't take long for her to figure out the threat in that sentence. What I was really saying was, You do it or I'll do it. One of us will be gentle. Guess who?

Oh, it grieves me to have to bare my soul this way. But there's a good lesson in all this.

When the five-minute point arrived, and I called her to my side, nine times out of ten, she hadn't heeded my warning. Her hair would be a mess. And I'd shrug my shoulders, sigh, and say, "Then you've left me no choice. I'll have to do it for you." Like I said at the beginning: I wasn't trying to hurt her. But I took no great pains to ensure that I didn't, either. If I encountered a tangle, I removed it. Without tenderness.

"Ow!" she'd exclaim.

My answer was always the same: "If you don't like the way I do your hair, you should probably do it yourself." I wanted her to wise up.

One day, my sister arrived to pick us up after just such an ordeal. "Why is Tera crying?" Tarri asked.

"She didn't like the way I brushed her hair."

Tarri groaned. "Oh, I so remember how I felt every time Mom came at me with that brush. My heart pounded while I waited for that first thump on my head. I just knew it was going to be awful."

And I turned to my sister and actually said, "Oh, Tarri ... if I'd known, I would have brushed your hair so you didn't have to go through all that."

The second the words left my mouth, I heard Hmmm. Just like that. I heard a heavenly "Hmmm." I'm familiar with that sound. It always means a "talk" is in my future. And sure enough, later that day, I got alone with God and heard the rest of the conversation.

I went out on our front porch when we got home and sat on the swing. And the moment I quieted down, God asked me a question. Could you not be gentle with her for my sake?

He couldn't have spoken more clearly if he were sitting next to me on that swing. I heard--and felt so convicted, I burst into tears. I'd been approaching Tera on the basis of principle. She needed a lesson. She had to learn. She couldn't get away with defying me. I even comforted myself with assurances that such skills ensured her independence down the road.

But when you take principle out of the equation, sometimes your footing crumbles. I thought about it for about two seconds, and then I made a promise. "Yes, Lord. I can treat her gently for your sake."

The next morning, I got my chance. "Ready?" I yelled up the stairs.

"Yep," she answered back. But when she came down, I saw it wasn't so.

"Bring me your brush," I said.

She gave me a fearful look, slumped her shoulders, and trudged reluctantly back upstairs.

I waited for her on the couch. "Sit right here." I pointed to the carpet between my feet.

She sat, and tensed.

I held her hair in my hands and imagined that it belonged to Jesus. I imagined that somehow, I'd been given the privilege to bless him with my brush. And I imagined that through my slow and careful motions, I might convey just a tiny bit of my love for him.

With every stroke, Tera relaxed more. And when I finished, and her hair was shiny and smooth and beautiful, she turned and smiled at me. "That didn't hurt at all, Mom."

No, it didn't. It actually felt quite wonderful.

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15 Comment:

At 4/06/2005 10:04 AM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

Isn't that beautiful when He speaks to us. Like the other night when my son came up out of nowhere and said, "I love you Dad, you're my hero" no questions needed, just a huge tearful hug from me.

Thank you once again for the beauty and inspiration you share with us.
Love, Joe

At 4/06/2005 11:42 AM, Blogger Hope had this to say ...

You did it! You made me cry. :) Thank you so much for sharing this. It really spoke to my heart, regarding my own five-year-old daughter. I know I will remember this every time I think I need to "teach" her a lesson. Thank you so much!!

At 4/06/2005 1:38 PM, Anonymous weirsdo had this to say ...

Don't feel bad. I showed my daughter hair care and left her to her own devices, because I'd hated it when my mother brushed mine. She has very curly hair. One night she came downstairs around 11 P. M. and revealed that her hair was matted into bricks, and she had been too worried to tell me! She had been putting it up, and the matting had not been noticeable. Needless to say, a major cut was in order, but I was able to spare her further embarrassment by giving her a decent one on the spot. I felt guilty, but she was relieved, and even likes her new short and easier to care for do.

At 4/06/2005 2:30 PM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

beautiful! I knew He spoke to us. I love it when others share their stories as well.

At 4/06/2005 3:56 PM, Anonymous Josse had this to say ...

Very heart-opening story. Thank you.

At 4/06/2005 8:18 PM, Anonymous lynetta.write.away@gmail.com had this to say ...

Wow, talk about conviction! God used your post today to open my heart to some things He's been trying to tell me about "teaching" my two daughters. They don't like to brush their hair, either! :-)

Thank you for sharing so openly. Knowing that I'm not the only one who has felt that way and seeing God's work in your heart has caused me to be open to His work in mine as well. Blessings!

At 4/06/2005 11:15 PM, Blogger Lori Seaborg had this to say ...

Ouch! You stepped on my toes! While reading, I was nodding my head and saying, "That's right, Sister, that's how I do their hair if they won't do it!"

Then I read the rest of your post.

At 4/07/2005 4:44 AM, Blogger Amie had this to say ...

wonderful wonderful story! really nice! it made me stop and read the rest of it instead of just blog hopped it!

came here via BE! have a nice day! :)

At 4/07/2005 7:24 AM, Blogger mrsd had this to say ...

Great post. It's a good reminder.

At 4/07/2005 11:33 AM, Blogger Kris had this to say ...

Thank you. I immediately got the brush and gently brushed my 5-yr-old's hair. She ususally runs from the brush. Many times we have just skipped the brushing to keep from being late as a reult of a slow, gentle brushing. Or if we don't have to go anywhere, we don't brush it at all. Then, more tangles.. and the cycle continues. I am convicted now that gentle is better than late.

At 4/07/2005 5:53 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Hope, Lynetta, Lori and Kris: Thanks for letting me know about the tears, conviction and hair-brushing. :) Right after I had this "ephiphany," I spent a weekend teaching at a women's retreat. I decided--pretty much on the spot--to give them the details. Afterwards, privately, about a dozen women came to me to share that they had struggled with that same hair-brushing impatience. I think we're all living pretty much the same life.

Thanks Joe, Weirsdo, Monica, Josse, Aimee and MrsD--I appreciate your comments!

At 4/08/2005 6:01 AM, Blogger Jennifer had this to say ...

Shannon, I could have written this myself! Isn't it strange how mothers and daughters across the generations come to blows over hair???? My mother broke a brush on me once and I hated her for it - until the day I hit my daughter on the head with a brush myself! I am convinced that God teaches us many lessons through hair.

At 4/08/2005 12:05 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Oh, Jennifer--isn't that something when our mothers rise out of us? :)

I learned a huge lesson through that hair brush--mostly that every day is filled with those small opportunities to bless God.

At 4/09/2005 8:32 PM, Anonymous Tanya had this to say ...

When I was a child my mom was always so gentle with my hair, and I have good memories of sitting there while she ministered to me. Now that I am older I sit and brush my moms hair and it is still an act of love and companionship. It is amazing that a simple act of hygiene can become a wonderful act of love.

I found your blog through BE as well and I was moved. I think you can teach us all to be a little more gentle with our children.

At 6/18/2005 10:59 PM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

Very lovely story.

How often do we find ourselves getting angry at our children without stopping to consider that there is perhaps a different approach that will not only work better but bring us closer to them.


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