Friday, September 4, 2009

The Danger of Not Letting Them Go (Part 3 – When To Let Your Kids Go)

For some reason, this subject has been heavy on my heart lately. I have prayed daily for wisdom about whether or not to write about it – and for God to reveal His truth to me on the topic. I have many dear friends who are school teachers, public school parents, or who may simply disagree with the amount of protection that I give to my own children. The answer to the question “When should I let my kids go out into the world?” is not the same for every child or family. There is no easy formula. But for those who have children and who want to see them glorify God in their lives when they leave the nest, let me just say this – this is one thing that you don’t want to get wrong.

I plan to cover this topic in three segments:

Whether you agree or not – I encourage comments. I especially encourage other viewpoints when they are accompanied by scripture. Believe me when I say that this was written under prayerful circumstances, and with no accusing finger pointed at anyone. Really.
The year was 1982, and I walked into my high-school literature class with my Bible and a few things to say. I was fortunate enough to be in the Advanced Placement class where we were encouraged to debate and argue over what we believed. I was often at odds with many in the class and, more importantly, with the class teacher, who was a devout atheist. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the discussions we had, because they were very lively and forced me to carefully research why I believed what I did.

On this one occasion, I was especially excited, because we had been having a discussion about morality and where the general feelings of right and wrong had originated. Since we were always reading from various pieces of literature to make a point, I thought reading from some select passages in Romans 1 would serve to demonstrate my side of the story, and make some people think about what God had to say on the matter.

I was wrong.

As the discussion progressed, I commented that I had some thoughts on the subject from the Bible. The teacher became very animated and refused to let me continue. She let it be known that I was not allowed to read from the Bible in her class, and that I was to never return with it again in my hands. Any other book was acceptable to argue the point with, but the Bible was not allowed. For the moment, I was crushed. No one came to my defense. I remember going for a week after that in silence in class. Without the Scriptures to refer to, anything I had to say would have simply been an opinion. To me, the class was simply “pooling ignorance”, adrift without a solid reference point on which to take hold. I thought I had lost. But you need to read to the end of this post to discover the real finish to this story.

I was raised in both a family and in a strict church environment which impressed upon me the importance of the Bible and the need be prepared to debate and argue for the truth. This upbringing readied me at a fairly early age to defend Christ and holy living. By high school, I was ready to accept bitterness, criticism, and even rejection from others without the possibility of losing the moral compass that guided me. My parents and a strong church family were responsible for this. But before this point, I don’t think I was ready to stand up to the abuse.

Proverbs 22:6 does not say, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is six he will not turn from it.” As I’ve pointed out previously, somewhere between the ages of two and thirty-five, there lies an age when a child is ready to independently go forth and defend the Christian faith. The age of maturity differs for each child (for some, it may indeed be six, though I think that is rare). Prior to that point, there is a danger that the world will have a mitigating effect on the child’s own moral compass. It is the duty of the Christian parent to be sure that they provide guidance, training and protection until that independent point is reached.

There is a popular phrase which goes like this, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” I respectfully disagree. There is an insidious design in Satan’s plan in which we are sometimes led to believe that getting close to evil, and then escaping it, is somehow more desirable than to never have been close to evil at all. The more desirable path for training is to keep our children away from evil to start with, without the need to later untangle the effects of sin (Proverbs 1:8, 6:23, and especially 23:19) . C. S. Lewis, in the preface to The Great Divorce, put it this way:
“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it.”
There are pictures and words in my head today which I cannot get rid of because of exposure to movies and conversations in my youth. These things are seemingly indelible on my mind – no amount of time or prayer seems to cure me of the exposure to them. It is a constant struggle to turn away from temptation, or remind myself to refrain from anger when I’m pushed too hard. I would have been better off if I had never had the experiences to begin with. And this drives my desire to shelter and protect my own children from the subtle influence of the world.

But…there comes a time when I believe we are called upon to send our children out – well-prepared – to defend the faith. The fact is this – the world is a lost and broken place, and it needs Jesus. And Matthew 5 does call upon us to be a light to the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. The danger of not letting our children go forth to be that shining light is that the world may never see God’s salvation through them. Their wise and matured example is part of God’s plan, as we see in Daniel 12:3,
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
This has the effect of changing the world and us, as stated in 2 Corinthians 3:18,
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Our example may even carry past our own life on this earth, as is seen with Abel in Hebrews 11:4,
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”
To conclude the opening story - ten years after that disappointing moment in high school, I attended a class reunion. One of the most meaningful events of my life happened that evening when one of my old classmates approached me and told me, “I just want you to know how much I appreciate the stand you took on the Bible in our high school classes. I remember it well. And I’m happy to tell you that I have given my life to Christ since that time, and your Christian example had something to do with it.”

As I’ve stated before, this series is about effective, deliberate parenting. God has invested us, as parents, with the responsibility to take care that our children are trained, protected, and ready to serve Him in powerful ways. Guarding their lives from worldly influence will make them stronger. Yes, much good has been done by people who were rescued from evil lives – those who repented, and then chose to serve God in mighty ways (the apostle Paul was a good example). But many more people throughout history were not able to climb out of the pit of sin that entrapped them once they fell in. I encourage Christian parents everywhere to purposefully choose the best and most God-honoring path for their children. That path is not the same for every child – God’s plan is far more textured and complex than a simple list of rights and wrongs. I pledge to be diligent in prayer for God to reveal His plan to our families, and for our light to shine, ultimately, in the most powerful way for Him.


Makarios said...

Thanks for post. Food for thought.

Henry Cate said...

Your experience in high school reminds me of a story:

4 rabbis had a series of theological arguments, and 3 were always in accord against the fourth. One day, the odd rabbi out, with the usual "3 to 1, majority rules" statement that signified that he had lost again, decided to appeal to a higher authority. "Oh, God!" he cried. "I know in my heart that I am right and they are wrong! Please show me a sign, so they too will know that I understand Your laws."

It was a beautiful, sunny day. As soon as the rabbi finished his plaint, a storm cloud moved across the sky above the four. It rumbled once and dissolved. "A sign from God! See, I'm right, I knew it!" But the other three disagreed, pointing out that storm clouds form on hot days.

So he asked again: "Oh, God, I need a bigger sign to show that I am right and they are wrong. So please, God, a bigger sign."

This time four storm clouds appeared, rushed toward each other to form one big cloud, and a bolt of lightning knocked down a tree ten feet away from the rabbis. The cloud dispersed at once. "I told you I was right!" insisted the loner, but the others insisted that nothing had happened that could not be explained by natural causes.

The insisting rabbi is all ready to ask for a *very big* sign when just as he says "Oh God..." the sky turns pitch black, the earth shakes, and a deep, booming voice intones, "HEEEEEEEE'S RIIIIIIIGHT!"

The sky returns to normal. The one rabbi puts his hands on his hips and says, "Well?" "So," replied another, "now it's 3 to 2!"

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