Poopy Messes

Recently a friend called with an urgent prayer request; she’d been summoned ASAP to her son’s private Christian school and they wouldn’t say why.  She was concerned about her eight-year-old anyway because of some traumatic life situations they had been weathering, and she feared that maybe he was acting out because of how difficult his life had been.

Turns out someone had pooped on the bathroom floor and they had traced it to “Mark.” They pulled him out of his class and had him wait for his mother in the principal’s office. When my friend got there and found out what had happened, she said, “My son has occasional bowel problems. He’s only eight years old. Why are you making a big deal about this?”

“Because,” they replied, “he didn’t tell anyone about it! He should have told someone! You don’t leave poop on the bathroom floor! That’s wrong!” They made it sound like he’d been caught stealing or setting the school on fire.

“Mark,” my friend asked her son kindly, “Is there a reason you didn’t tell anyone?”

In a small voice Mark answered, “I didn’t know what to do.”

My friend reassured her son there at the school and again when they got home, even though she was boiling inside at the insensitivity of the school personnel who made a scared little boy feel like a criminal for simply not knowing what to do.

What was missing was the awareness of a safe person he could tell “I messed up” without The Fear Of God hammering down on him. What was missing was any interaction with any adult with a kind face and a disposition of grace that understands that sometimes little kids make poopy messes that paralyze them with fear, and it’s okay. That we clean it up, give a hug, and you’re on your way. What was missing was a grown-up who remembers that there’s a difference between making a mistake and making a choice to be rebellious.

My heart hurts for little Mark and for Mark’s mommy, both of whom desperately need to experience the grace of safe people for both literal and figurative “poopy messes.”

So I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a safe person, a grace person.

It means first of all being in touch with our own messes and our own sinfulness and our own desperate need for a gracious Savior. It means delighting in receiving the grace and mercy of God, and being committed to passing that grace and mercy on to others. It means remembering that since we live in a fallen world, everyone walks around with an invisible tattoo on their forehead that says, “Please encourage me.” It means trusting God to shine His love and His grace and His mercy through our faces like so much light streaming through a stained glass window. It means remembering that everyone is still very much in process and a long way from our final form of glorified beauty and strength when Jesus is finished working on us.

It means that when someone makes a poopy mess, we set our minds on responding with “I’m sorry” rather than “shame on you.”

Because it won’t be long before we’re needing some grace for our own poopy mess. Again.

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.


  • Jamie Lath

    assigning motives
    I agree with you, especially when it comes to assigning motives to someone. I’ve had this happen to me and the pain was great as I tried to explain what I had really been trying to do (once I realized four years later that something else had been assumed and carried for that long as a sign of my character, or lack thereof). And of course, I have done the same thing to others because it seems like we can’t get away from trying to figure out why someone did something rather than just asking. But, I am learning to ask, ask, ask and keep my assumptions to myself until they’re verified–or more often not verified. Thanks for this reminder that most of the time we just don’t know what’s really going on in anyone’s head.

  • Shannon

    life lessons
    Sue – what a great reminder that we need to reflect Christ in the way we spread grace around lavishly…I had a great teacher help me understand, before my girls were even born, the importance of distinguishing between willful disobedience and childish mistakes when it comes to stuff that happens with my (and others!) kiddos. My mom was a great example of this – once, when my sister dropped a plate, she was about to burst into tears because of her accident, when my mom promptly grabbed a clean plate, and dropped it on the floor. It broke (mom’s intent). I’ve never forgotten that my sister’s tears turned into giggles, and the fear of punishment turned into a life lesson about accidents…

    • Sue Bohlin

      Important difference!

      Thanks Shannon! You are so right — there is a WORLD of difference between willful disobedience and childish mistakes! And Lord, give us discernment and wisdom to know the difference!

      Thanks for sharing the wonderful story about your mom showing great grace to your sister. For years I’ve had a piece of my calligraphy hanging in our bathroom where the whole family will see it: "In the scope of eternity, what does this matter?" That kind of filter helps us to know what’s more important, a broken plate or a child’s fearful heart. Only one will last into eternity.

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