I picked up my nephew from football practice the other day and while I waited, I watched the other high school kids interact outside my car window.
A pretty girl walked out of the gym from a cross-country workout session and a group of guys started yelling inappropriate things at her. She gave them “the finger” and a dirty look and then walked up to window and leaned in seductively to whisper something in the boy’s ear.
There was raunchy laughter and arm punching. Tires spinning. More cat calls and for a brief moment I got a snapshot of the teen scene.
It scared me.
Because I’m not so naive to realize this is regular, normal everyday teenager stuff.
This isn’t the latest trashy Miley Cyrus video that’s gotten more than 72 million views. It’s not the readily available porn on a friend’s cell phone or one of the thousands of sext messages kids send each other. It’s not the cyber bullying that results in suicide, the injustice of racial profiling, or the politically correct agenda that tells us it’s our choice to kill babies and marry whoever we please.
As I crawled into bed that night, I couldn’t help but think about my naive 13 year old who will be readying for this same high school this time next summer or my kind, sensitive son who already feels out of place among his peers because he’s a “nice kid.”
It’s enough to make a momma want to board up her doors and keep her good kids out of this bad world.
We are just entering the teen years in our home and rather than live in fear, we are trying to prepare our kids for the world. We refuse to stick our heads in the sand and throw out polite Christian promises of things our kids will never do. We know there will be temptations to look at pornography and push boundaries we have defined. We know there will be mistakes and failures because we are raising humans. And as mature Christian adults, we still make plenty of our own.
I know my good kids can be bad and the bad world can be good. But we can’t assume our Christian kids can survive this ungodly world just because we take them to church on Sundays and have 11 Bibles in our home.
Did you know 70-80% of kids leave the church when they turn 18? And many millennials don’t return. It’s a startling fact. We can lead our children to Jesus, but we can’t make them disciples. While I want my children to make good, Godly choices as they grow up, I hold fast to the promise that God can redeem anything, even bad choices. He often uses our mistakes and failures to lead us to back to Him.
I’m still intimidated by all I see going on in the world, but I refuse to cower and move to another country (although I have thought about it) because I’m afraid. We are in the in-between years, watching our children transform into teenagers before our eyes. We are making a lot of mistakes and learning along the way. But here are some truths we are holding onto:
- We are expecting our kids to rise above the low expectations the world has of teenagers (Read Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations). They don’t have to be rebellious. They can overcome the world with the help of Jesus and that’s our goal.
- We are resisting the urge to make everything black/white (good/bad) and directing our kids as they get older instead of constantly correcting them. Asking important questions like, “What do you think about that video/movie?” Etc
- We are creating a safe environment of very open communication about lust, dating, pornography, what really goes on at school, church (oh, yes, even there). We want our home to be safe, a place where our kids can talk about anything.
- We are trying to establish a community of peer believers to do life along side our kids. I’m learning this is critical. Christian kids need Christian community outside of school (even church). They need positive peer influence or they will find it in the bad that’s at every turn.
- We are offering forgiveness in failure. Perhaps the biggest thing we can offer our children is forgiveness. I don’t want my kids making good decisions because they think there’s is a punishment at home for bad ones. I want them to make good choices because it’s a result of a right heart. But when they do mess up, there needs to be grace.
I was raised in a black and white era of Christianity with shame-based sex education and constantly questioning my salvation with every mess-up. I don’t want to raise my kids in that tension. When I look at the world around us, my first inclination is to shelter and remove my children from it. But we are called to be in the world, just not of it. And that’s the hard part.
But by the grace of God, it’s possible to raise Christian kids in an ungodly world.