Toddlers and Our Dirty Hands | Isabelle Ingalls

“Bell-wup, Bell-wup!” my little brother calls, his toddler feet pattering across the wooden floor. Almost four and talking so well, yet my name has retained its babyish suffix. “I have dirty hands!” he proclaims sadly, holding them up for me to see. So I’ll help him up onto his stool in front of the sink, turning on the water and providing soap at the correct times.

But I sigh good-naturedly as I do so. Because this is the third time he’s done the exact same thing in fifteen minutes. And each and every time, no matter how hard I look, I can’t find anything on his hands. There’s no dirt. There’s no mud. There’s no smudges. He’s been playing with a mask, so maybe he brushed some glitter off, but even that I cannot see.

Yet he’s insistent that his hands are dirty. And if his hands are dirty, he knows they need to be washed.

Now, a toddler wanting to be continuously cleaned isn’t a big deal (in fact, I should probably be thankful, because the next little one will likely be the exact opposite). I’ll laugh at him and let him splash around and delight in the water that flows so freely out of the tap. But he’s not the only one who gets messy.

Because my hands are often dirty too. Not with physical dirt and germs, but with sin. With mistakes. With wrongs.

And yes, we know we all sometimes slip and land in the mud, the mire coming up to our elbows. We know we need to be washed then. But often it’s the little dirt that we pass over. I tell a little white lie (as if such a thing exists). I allow my anger to make me snap out, to just cross that line for a moment. I cut those corners because I just don’t feel like it today. I slip into gossip and condemnation. But we don’t see those as big deals. If someone else looked, they couldn’t really see it. But it’s still there. We still feel it. We still know our hands are dirty. Yet we allow it.

“It’s not a big deal,” we tell ourselves. “It’s just something little; I don’t need to go wash.” But that’s not true. We all know what happens when we don’t scrub our hands with soap and water. Germs and dirt build up and creep in. They start to make you sick, affecting every part of your body. Your strength is weakened; your energy is sapped. If that’s true with the physical, how much more so with the spiritual? When we allow sin to cling, its stench can start spreading to everything else.

Fortunately, the blood of Christ is the best cleanser there is.

The cross isn’t just for our big mirey disgusting sins, it’s for all of them––because in God’s eyes, all of them are. His renewing isn’t just for Sunday morning and revival tents, it’s also for Wednesday woes and backseat bickering. We can’t come to him too often. There’s never an over amount of cleansing. Three times in fifteen minutes isn’t too often to wash yourself. We need Him every hour, every moment, every breath.

Yes, some days it seems like the need to return to His cleansing flow, again and again, is endless. If you’ve never had one of those days, then you’re either a saint or have never worked with children. Or siblings. Or just people in general.

But that’s okay. Because He calls us to come. Come and laugh in His love, rejoice in His forgiveness, delight in the living water that flows so freely. Douse yourself daily in His grace, come ever to the fount of all goodness.

We’re just little children, lisping out our pleas to our Lord. But when we come to Him, crying Abba, holding out our dirty hands, He gently leads us to the fountain and cleanses them Himself.


Isabelle Ingalls is a 20-year old writer seeking to see the reminder and reflection of Christ’s glorious Gospel in all of life. As a homeschool graduate, when she’s not writing, you can find her working with children, singing and dancing around the house, and discussing theology with friends over hot chocolate. A writer for both The Rebelution and Top Christian Books, she shares on singleness, adoption, Narnia, thunderstorms, stories, and Christian Living at her blog Seeing Everything Else.


  1. I love this analogy about how we know our hands are dirty even if no one else can see it. Those “little sins” are what pile up and destroy us, oftentimes, aren’t they? Thanks for the reminder, Belle!

  2. Thank you so much for posting, Isabelle! This is such a great article and a wonderful reminder!

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