From "Parenting with Spirit" by Jane Bartlett.
And, if I may be so bold, we Christian parents are the biggest scaredy- cats around! We are so very scared of the modern cultural climate that we feel the need to lack "drop out" in a similar way to Timothy Leary (without the help of LSD, obviously). We don't want to engage with "the man", be part of this world, we don't like it, why the heck should we? However, although the Bible tells us to "be not conformed to the ways of the world" the New Testament is full of examples of Jesus and his disciples engaging, loving and helping people I wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. The psalms are full of joy and love, for both our Creator and His creation, and oh boy are those psalms full of hope!
So when I read stuff about "the rod as a means of grace" (I didn't know this was going on until I went online) and girls not going to university for their own protection I can see an awful lot of fear behind the reasoning for these parenting methods, and I empathize with these parents. However, we must not forget that behind the eyes of every knife-wielding gang member on a rough estate is a soul, and a soul just as precious to God as our own. Every hedonistic night club in the country is choc full of people our Creator loves, even our politicians are held precious by God!lol! There is a fine and subtle difference between seeing the world as evil and seeing the world as sinful, one has a greater possibility of redemption than the other. When we see sin in the world we can recognise ourselves because we too are sinful, we can act in empathy and in love, we can engage fully with those people of whom we may not necessarily approve, because we know that "there by the grace of God go I". When we see evil, our natural instinct is to run and be afraid. Not to engage fully with the great commission because we are far too busy protecting ourselves and our children from those very people we should be reaching out to.
Now, I am not suggesting we should let our children run free in a dangerous world whilst we parents go on missionary work! But that we simply recognise in this selfish and vain world there is a great capacity for goodness and beauty. I love this quote from St Francis of Assisi, a man who had quite a few wise words to say:
"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."
We need to think about the Gospel and truly employ it in the relationships we have with our families and the wider world. Saint Paul distilled the Gospel down to "faith, hope and love" and Our Saviour said "love thy God with all thy heart" and "love thy neighbour as thyself" and "there is no other commandment greater these, on these commandments hold all the laws and the prophets". So, when we preach the Gospel (either with or without words) we are preaching about love and hope and faith. We are bound to act on love and faith, not fear, distrust and distaste. We must be balanced in all things: protect our children but not control them, trust them and their relationship with God, and show them what it means to have a spiritual life. This is what we should be teaching our children; that there is real beauty in an inner city area because God's children live and work there, that friends and family can, and do, come from all walks of life, that peace and joy are found in the knowledge that they are loved by God for whom they are not what they do, as that love is strong and unconditional and unfathomable. Then, and only then, will they have the confidence to go out into the world as an instrument of God's peace, able to make sound moral decisions, able to converse sincerely with people they may disagree with or disapprove of, able to discuss what is good and what is right quite openly and with confidence.
Therefore, it all comes down to trust. We must trust in our Creator so that we do not control our children, trust in His plan and thank Him for our world. Show our spirituality through joy and thanks, and be frank about pain and sin, because amidst the all the hurt and suffering in the world there is a lot to be thankful for.
Here endeth the first lesson.