If you want good kids, you can change the rules in your house. But, if you truly want God-loving children, you have to change the culture of your home.
Do you remember the story of Jaycee Dugard? At the age of eleven, Jaycee was walking up a hill near her home. She was wearing her favorite, all pink outfit and was walking to the nearest school bus stop. As she walked up the hill, a gray sedan pulled to the curb and asked Jaycee a question. The occupants of the car then subdued her with a stun gun, abducted her and drove off – to the horror of her on-looking stepfather.
Eighteen years and untold abuses later, Jaycee was discovered alive with two teenage daughters.
Can you imagine the mental anguish her parents faced over those years? That very thought sends some parents into hyper-protection mode. Strangers in the grocery store are viewed with heightened suspicion. Sex off ender databases are monitored for changes. “Stranger danger” conversations become regular talk around the table.
Even though Jaycee Dugard survived, her story touches a sensitive nerve for many parents. It is a stark reminder that we cannot take our eyes off our children in our ever-darkening world.
Over the last twenty or thirty years, our safe, U.S. bubble has popped. When I was a child, the world was seemingly a decent place. I used to spend the majority of my afternoons riding my BMX bike through the wooded area a few blocks from our home. The only time my parents were concerned was when I stayed out past dark or when I wanted to cross high-traffic roads.
As a child, I did not have many worries. Safety was one of the last things on my mind. Today, children hear worrisome stories about abductions and classroom shootings. Parents shelter their children behind privacy fences and research the safety records of local schools.
To that end, many daycare centers have video surveillance, allowing parents to access live, online feeds of their children. Seemingly more than ever, it makes sense to keep a watchful eye on the safety of your child…regardless of the distance between the two of you.
Video cameras and extra steps of precaution simply make sense to us as parents. We value the safety of our kids.
Here’s the problem. Bubble-wrapped children are not necessarily healthy children. And our obsession with safety may be causing us to fail as parents.
Teaching Like Jesus
Think about how Jesus reared the disciples. Do you remember any stories that proclaim the virtues of safety? Can you think of an instance where Jesus taught them to pursue a safe life?
Jesus obviously cared about the well-being of the disciples. He did not push them in front of oncoming donkeys or dunk them under the water and hold them down. He did care. More than that, He loved them deeply. He just never taught them to value a safe life. As much as this grates across our parental instincts, maybe we should stop teaching and reinforcing the value of fear.
As I look at how Jesus led the disciples, I do not see Him worrying over their every step. In fact – try to swallow this as a parent – His primary focus was not on the ones He was in charge of leading. His eagle-eye was not primarily watching the activity of the disciples; it was watching the movements of the Father.
As Cindi Dinkler points out, “His life was not all about them. He did not whisk them away to some secret place in order to pour all of His efforts into their training. Jesus was predominantly about His Father’s work. He was driven by obedience to the Father and He took His disciples along for the ride.”
Jesus was not preoccupied with keeping His eyes on the disciples. He said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). That was the environment which set the stage for everything Jesus taught. He created a culture of looking to God. Then, all of His subsequent teachings highlighted aspects of the God-focused culture.
He was not sidetracked by the safety, or the behavior, of the disciples. He was not concerned about helping them become good or successful men. Instead, He wanted them to learn the power of looking-for-and-listening to God. He wanted them to be God-loving men. And in the end, that is how eleven of the twelve turned out.
They may not have memorized every word He said, but they could not forget the God-focused culture He created for them.
If we want to raise spiritually healthy followers of Jesus, maybe we should spend more time with our eyes on the Father. Maybe we should spend less time mulling over the “what-if ’s” of this world and spend more time listening to the day-by-day advice of God.
As long as our eyes are fixed primarily on our children’s safety, we are teaching them that safety is the highest value in life. When safety is the top priority, it sets the culture for the rest of your teachings. Conversely, when we keep our eyes pointed toward God, our children learn that following God’s ways – not necessarily pursuing safety – is the highest value in life. That’s when God-focus becomes the culture of our homes.
I know that is a lot easier said than done, but I am also convinced that it is a crucial step in our parent shift. When we keep our eyes pointed toward God, our children learn that following God’s ways – not necessarily pursuing safety – is the highest value in life.
We have to develop the same style culture that Jesus created. Then, we will be ready to teach our children in the ways of Jesus.