I was going through some old papers recently, and I found this piece that my husband wrote. Now understand that my husband does not have a love affair with the pen as I do. When he actually sits down to flesh a thought out on paper, it is only because the topic is something of import to him.
This particular bit of writing was born out of a situation we faced where our daughter was exposed to another girl who was, shall we say, rather rough around the edges. That is putting it mildly.
Sadly, it was the Christians involved who ostracized this young lady. They clucked their tongues at her ways while pulling their children as far from her as possible. We could see her isolation deepen, her already damaged self-worth plummet, and her unsavory behavior escalate.
For some reason, she took a liking to our daughter. We struggled with the desire to shield our own from this worldly teen, and our compassion for such a lost young soul. In the end, we allowed our daughter to offer her friendship under our watchful (but not hovering) eyes, and found the experience a growing one for all of us…
They will know we are Christians by our love.
I was thinking the other day about that old joke or parable, I can’t remember which, about the guy on the roof of his house while the whole neighborhood is flooding. With complete faith he prays for God to deliver him. A small boat overloaded with people comes by and he says, “Don’t worry about me. God will save me!” A while later a rowboat with only one person comes by to help and again he says, “Don’t worry, God will save me!” Then a helicopter lowers a basket for him, but he waves them off saying again, “God will save me.” After he drowns and sees Jesus he asks, “Why didn’t you save me?” Jesus responds, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What were you expecting?”
I have been praying for my kids to have wisdom, to grow in their walk, and to make their faith their own. This parable keeps coming to my mind and I realize that I spend so much time and energy protecting my kids from the world that I effectively chase off the opportunities God has put in front of me to help my kids grow and mature spiritually.
One of the few valuable things I learned in college was that what goes on out in the field is very different than what goes on in the classroom. We as a family have devoted all of our energies to training our kids with homeschool, family time, prayer time, church, and the co-op. But, I submit to you that this is “book learning”. We protect our families with such diligence that we are better at chasing opportunities away then we are at actually ministering to people. We are not teaching our kids how to use their faith to impact lives. We need some field training!
When God places lost peers in front of our kids we must give them the chance to shine the light of Jesus. When my 14 year old daughter says to a worldly 14 year old, “You don’t need a boyfriend, you are worth more than that!”, it is a message that will impact that girl unlike anything an adult could ever say. Not only is a lost child having a holy seed planted in her life, but my daughter is experiencing the real world impact the Holy Spirit can have in people’s lives including her own. She can contrast the Christian hope and joy we take for granted and have compassion on someone who is living in darkness.
As a parent, how do we transition from teaching biblical truths like ‘bad company corrupts good character’, to emulating Jesus? He didn’t sit around the temple waiting for the lost to come to Him. He sought out the sinners, ate with them, and fellowshipped with them. I think, unlike the man on his roof, we need to respond to what God sends our way. When unsavory people cross our path, we need to see them for the growth opportunities they are. We must show our adults-in-training how to evaluate and interact with the lost. Then they will see and understand the consequences of sin.
Without such experiences our kids won’t develop a passion for the lost. And I believe they even risk becoming lost themselves. Some say over 80% of churched kids leave the faith. Why do you think that is? They know the truth but have not experienced the truth.
It’s our job as parents to help them make their faith real, personal, relevant. I want my kids to own their faith! And while I do not promote tossing them unsupervised into ungodly situations, neither should I try to hide them in a Christian bubble. I do not help them grow by chasing every potential bad influence out of their lives. I must show them how to deal with these influences, how to love these people, how to shine like Jesus to these lost people. Nothing will spark real faith like seeing the power of the Holy Spirit change lives!
We have given our kids the best foundation there is – the Bible. We now have to let them use it. They must practice influencing the world while not being influenced by it.
It is my prayer that we remember to actively train our young adults for the messy complications the world has waiting for them. So when they leave the nest and head out into this mission field that is our world, they will have not only the training but also the practical experience to make an impact for the Kingdom!