Over the past few years, I’ve often heard parenting and child development experts offer the charge: “Give your kids a childhood they don’t have to heal from.” I’ve heard its echoes even in my own community and in the Church.

I understand what they’re trying to say. It’s a call to break generational patterns of abuse, neglect, and controlling behaviors and to honor the humanity of our children. This is deeply good, important, and necessary. There is a desire for goodness and blessing inherent in that phrase that I find so beautiful.

And yet…

This is a crippling rallying cry for a generation of parents. Giving our children a life without the need for healing quite simply cannot be done.

Healing From a “Healthy” Childhood

My growing-up years were idyllic. I had a life-giving and stable home marked by the love of Christ, settled in a community with good old-fashioned Midwestern values. We weren’t wealthy by any means, but we always had what we needed and more. No emotion was off limits. My parents engaged any question with honesty and respect. In our family, my body was always treated and talked about with dignity that honored its Maker.

And yet, as an adult I have had to heal from my childhood.

From words from peers that brought the sting of shame. From sincere and kindly-meant encouragement from adults that reinforced unhealthy and untrue narratives I held about the source of my value as a person. From the grief of loss. From my own desire for and pursuit of the approval of others and all the ways that hurt me and those around me. From the unrealistic expectations I placed on myself in order to achieve my picture of what it meant to be truly good, inside and out.

I have had to heal not only from the ways others have wounded me (whether intentional or unintentional), but also the many ways I did damage to my own self by searching for my worth and security in people and places that could never bear up under the weight of a soul made to find its rest in the Eternal God.

Two children in a hammock, facing away from the camera.

The Inescapability of Hurt

In a world fractured and bent low under the weight of all that is not as it should be, our need for healing is as innate as our dignity as those bearing the image of God.

Our kids cannot escape this, no matter how magical we as parents make their childhood. And I don’t say this callously, but with trembling. Fear over all the ways my children could be wounded in this world and my inability to protect them from it keeps me up at night and sends a wrecking ball through my days more than any other anxiety.

For all of us, despite our very best intentions for good, blessing, and protection, we will wound others and be wounded ourselves. Christ, have mercy.

We cannot give our children a childhood they don’t have to heal from. Lord, have mercy.

Offering Hope of Healing

Instead, we can offer our children a bone-deep, confident hope that healing is possible. We can tell our children the Great Story we are caught up in, in which the Healer is coming for everything, for every single wounded and scarred part of us and his Creation. We will be made whole by the One who formed us.

And yet, even with the knowledge of the inescapability of hurt and the inevitability of our healing in Christ, my prayers for my children and instinctive actions and words when they have been hurt betray the depth of my fear and the belief that the highest good is to not be wounded in the first place, rather than knowing the touch of the Father’s hand making us whole.

We will do just about anything to avoid the need for healing. But it is only in the process of healing that we can look down at our own hopelessly broken flesh and tattered hearts and bear witness to the God who tenderly, miraculously “binds up the broken hearted and heals their wounds” (Ps. 147:3), who “from the depths of the earth brings us up again” (Ps. 71:20), who subjected himself to the deepest of imaginable woundings for the love of the world and suffers with us in our every sorrow.

The Lessons of Healing

Furthermore, it is this experience of his transforming, renewing work in our own souls that releases us to pursue healing so that we are people who have the capacity to cultivate environments full of goodness, beauty, wonder, and safety for the sake of those around us and the coming kingdom of Christ who we love.

And still, the longing to be unwounded remains, even in the face of our scarred and stitched-up reality. But in that impossible longing for a life free from hurt and death and loss and brokenness is a seed of something true, planted by God: the hunger and thirst for a world made new.  The New Creation where God and each member of his creation can be perfectly known and perfectly loved is coming; he has made us for it.

And we will not arrive there by our futile work of unwoundedness, but only by God’s sure work of healing.

A picture of a small child's open hands holding fall leaves.

Danielle Mellema is a writer who is learning to notice the kingdom of God breaking through into her everyday life. She is passionate about reading as a means of spiritual formation, seeing her neighborhood thrive, and growing alongside the people of her local church, International Anglican Church, where she serves as churchwarden. She lives in a quirky 120-year-old Victorian house in Colorado Springs, CO, with her husband, Matt, and their four young children. She writes regularly at daniellemellema.com

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