For a number of years, I've been a fairly protective parent. I wouldn't go so far as to say I've been a "helicopter parent," but I've certainly tried to guard my children's innocence.
When they were small and would ask where babies came from, I'd explain that God designed us so that Mommies and Daddies would fall in love, get married, and then make babies because of their love.
I set parameters around their behavior that I felt would help them to learn and understand a Godly definition of morality. For example, I've long had a rule about not wearing clothing that I consider too grown-up for their age (you know, those clothes that are designed to dress up little girls as women).
There are certain books or movies that, on occasion, I've deemed off-limits.
As my children get older, though, I am beginning to see the need to do more than merely protect them. I need to prepare them.
It's not unlike immunizing my kids... I could keep them home to prevent them from ever contracting dangerous diseases like measles, but as they get older they would push back against my protection. If I don't want it to get to that point, I need to make sure they have their shots. That way, when they are ready to head out into the world on their own, I can rest in confidence that I have prepared their bodies to withstand an attack of the measles virus.
I need to prepare them to live out Godly lives in the context of the realities of this fallen world.
You see, as they get older and gain more experience in this world, they're coming home with questions that cannot be answered like their younger baby-making questions.
How can someone have a baby when they're not married?
What does "gay" mean?
What's a step-dad?
My friend's mom just had a baby, but the daddy is different than her daddy. How can that happen?
What's french kissing?
What is a virgin?
What does rape mean?
Of course, I still want to teach them the Biblical standards. I want them to aspire for that in their own lives (and hopefully see it in my life). But I cannot sugar-coat the realities, or when they begin to understand those realities for themselves they will be unprepared to deal with them.
The true preparation lies even deeper, though. I can't simply prepare them for the reality of this world as it compares to God's plan. No, I must teach them how to love others. Others whose moral choices may be completely opposite to ours. And sometimes that feels like a contradiction for us adults, so how can we teach it to our children?
The fact is, people are not won to Christ by being convicted of their sin. Really, in a world where right and wrong is relative - depending on circumstances - people no longer see what is sinful. And if we (Christians) are focused on their sin, we're seen as judgemental and hypocritical. Actually, if we're focusing on the sins of others we are judgemental and hypocritical.
People are won to Christ by feeling loved and accepted. People are won to Christ by seeing that there is "more to life than this" lived out in the lives of Christ-followers.
So the challenge I face as a parent is to teach my children to love people - all people, any people - while still seeking to honor God's commandments in their own lives.
Or, as Mary DeMuth puts it in her book You Can Raise Courageous and Confident Kids: Preparing Your Children for the World they Live In, "...to engage as a family in people's lives in a way that beckons them to Jesus Christ without sacrificing our family to the world system."
Here are some Scriptures I've been pondering as I consider how to prepare my children rather than just protecting them.
1 Corinthians 5:9-10
2 Corinthians 1:12
Q4U: What are you doing to prepare your children to live Godly lives in the context of the realities of this fallen world?