An Open Letter To Sunnie Kahle (And Christian Tomboys Everywhere)

by Rev . Emily C. Heath

Dear Sunnie,

You don’t know me, but this morning I read an article about you. Ever since then you keep crossing my mind. As I went around town today in my jeans and button-down shirt and sweater, I thought about you. As I came home from the gym tonight, I prayed for you.

And all the while, I wished I could write you a letter—the kind of letter I wish someone had written to me.

I don’t know how to get one to you, though. I thought about trying to send it to your grandparents for them to read to you, but I’m not sure if it would make it there. So instead I’m writing this and posting it on my blog. Maybe somehow these words will find their way to your grandparents, and they will share them with you. Or, maybe years from now you’ll find them online, and know that a lot of people were thinking about you today.

I read this morning that Timberlake Christian School, your school, has asked you to leave. The reason why, they say, is that you are not following “Biblical standards.” They say that you should be wearing dresses, and letting your hair grow out, and acting more “like a girl.” And they are saying that unless you do those things, you can’t go to your school anymore.

You are eight years old, and this probably sounds pretty silly to you. Don’t worry—I’m 37 years old and it sounds pretty silly to me too.

I’ll bet that I was a lot like you when I was eight years old.

I didn’t like dresses. I liked playing football and collecting baseball cards. My favorite things were airplanes and science kits. And I liked cutting my hair short.

A lot of people called me a tomboy. I think they meant that as an insult, but I actually thought the term was pretty neat. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you don’t. Which is okay, because if you don’t, you can call yourself whatever you want. You get that choice, just like you get to choose what kind of clothes you wear, and what hobbies you like.

But here’s what bothers me most of all, Sunnie. These people who are saying you can’t go back to school with your friends are telling you that Jesus is the reason. Like you, I was raised in the South—I spent the first part of my life in Virginia, just like you. And my parents always taught me to respect adults. But I was lucky because my parents also would tell me that sometimes adults are wrong.

Sunnie, the adults that told you that Jesus doesn’t like the way you dress, or that Jesus wants you to act “more like a girl”? They’re wrong.

Jesus does love you, Sunnie.

You know how I know? Because Jesus loves me too. And Jesus loves everyone like us, who grows up preferring shorts to skirts, and jeans to dresses. Jesus loves us when we cut our hair short. Jesus loves us when we out hit the boys in baseball. And Jesus loves us when we don’t want to wear a pink bow in our hair.

The pastors at your school may disagree. That’s okay. Tell them that there are pastors out there who think that they are wrong about Jesus. I’m one of those pastors. And if you came to my church, or the churches of a lot of my friends, no one would say a word about what you were wearing or what your hair looked like. (Actually, we might—we might tell you we like your sneakers or your t-shirt—but that’s it.)

Sunnie, I don’t know who you’ll grow up to be in ten years.

I don’t know who you will love, or what you will be like then. And that stuff doesn’t matter right now. Know why? Because you’re eight, and you have plenty of time to figure it out on your own time. No one else gets to do that for you.

So, Sunnie. I hope you keep being you. I hope your grandparents keep being incredible, and I hope your friends’ parents tell them that you had to leave school not because you did anything wrong, but because the school did something wrong.

But most of all, Sunnie, I hope you know that God loves you. God loves you so much, and God loves you exactly as you are now, and exactly as you will be. Never doubt that, no matter what people say or do to you. Just like they don’t get to tell you how to dress, they don’t get to take Jesus away from you either.

Keep being awesome, Sunnie.

Pastor Emily C. Heath

Originall published by Emily C. Heath; Image via flickr user Ed L

Comments (5)

Angie F.

This is so beautiful. I hope
This is so beautiful. I hope she gets to see this, and I wish every kid could hear that God loves them like this.

Candy Taylor

I pray that everyone that
I pray that everyone that sees this, shares it on all social media feeds that they have so that this beautifully written message finds its way to Miss Sunnie!! Way to go Pastor Emily!!

Christy Cole

Reverend Heath,
Reverend Heath,

I live in Lynchburg where the little girl lives and this story has been heartbreaking to me for many reasons. Your letter is precious and beautiful and expresses what I have been trying to articulate within my own mind.

The local TV station that has been covering this story has a Facebook page. I think it’s very important for Sunnie and her grandparents to hear this message. You should consider posting your letter on their FB page or using them to try and “deliver” your letter to the family.

If you are interested, here is the link to their FB page.

Peace, love and blessings to you!


I wish this letter could be
I wish this letter could be posted world-wide. There is NO boundary to God’s Love through Jesus. I pray and think Sunnie is going to do just fine as she matures and grows up. With the family she has and the support she commands, nothing will keep her back!
Blessings, Peace, and Joy to you all!
George M Melby, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain (Ret.).


Your beautiful letter brought
Your beautiful letter brought tears to my eyes. Bless you and Sunnie.

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