I’ve been mulling over two quotes of late. One speaks to the need to protect our children from negative influences; the other speaks to the need not to shelter our children from the world. At first glance they seem almost to contradict each other… except that (as I see it), they’re both true.
1) “You can do everything I recommend in this book and still lose your children to the world. How? By not separating them from wrong influences until they are very mature in their training and faith. (I believe this maturity comes far more slowly than most parents assume.) …When you allow your children to be exposed to questionable outside influences, you are only pushing them into the arms of a second master. Considering the many exciting temptations the world has to offer, it is unlikely that their loyalty will remain with you.” (Elizabeth Krueger, Raising Godly Tomatoes)
2) “We are to be the steady glow that helps the lost people around us find their way out of darkness. When families are committed to being this light, they are inclined to live more intimately for Christ… Somewhere in all the talk about raising kids, we moved away from this as a priority in our parenting… A family is, without doubt, the most effective vehicle to produce the kind of people who can move confidently into the adult world and have a redemptive impact on their culture – that’s what we are supposed to be doing. So why aren’t we?… I think fear is what motivates so much of the Christian parenting advice we get.” (Tim Kimmel, Grace-Based Parenting)
The Christian life is often about walking a godly path between two extremes; sin is frequently a matter of erring too far in one direction. With money, for example: too little attention is poor stewardship; too much is greed. With our bodies: too much food is gluttony; too little can be obsession or vanity. A similar tension exists in parenting as we consider the intersection between our children and the world. It’s critical that we prevent our young, impressionable children from absorbing the negative influences of our culture, and I find particularly interesting Krueger’s belief that children’s readiness to engage with culture occurs later than parents assume. (So far our own experience is bearing this out.) And Kimmel’s point is also true that we can’t just rope off the world – and shouldn’t even want to. Being a light to the world is what we – and hence our families – are supposed to be doing.
What’s the balance between these two realities? How do adequately protect our children from wrong influences while they’re young and immature while also eschewing a “circle the wagons” mindset and unbiblically dwelling in what Kimmel calls a “Christian parallel universe”? I’m not sure there are any easy answers; certainly there is no one right answer. As in so many areas of faith, we simply remain mindful of our biblical call and pray our way forward, following the Light as it illuminates our path. We employ widsom as it’s given, reject fear, and trust God to lead our own family as we seek to obey Him – not concerning ourselves with how the paths of other families may appear.