Tuesday, July 5, 2016

raising children in the aftermath of Orlando

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I realize that in this fast-paced society, I'm about 3 weeks late to this discussion. But do we really have to say everything right away and then move on? There are lasting impressions that come from an incident like the one that took place on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, FL. It would be a tragedy in itself if we just mourn for a day or a week and then move on.

Not that we should dwell on it either, because life has to go on, no matter how horrible the event. I'm a mom. I have children to care for, a house to run and a husband who needs my affections. I, like you, cannot afford to spend too much time and thought and care for one single event.

And honestly that is where I find myself almost daily: trying to balance the care and concern for what is happening everyday in this world and in our country and right here in my own city and the care and concern for what I have been called to do in my own home.

But that's not the point of this post, though it is an important thing to consider. What I really wanted to address is how, as a Christian mother, as a parent of 4 young children, I responded to the shooting in Orlando last month. 

There were about a million discussions (and heated debates) taking place on social media, on the floor of the House and the Senate, face to face, and within our churches and our homes as a direct result of the shooting. Some are still happening. Many have fizzled out.

One thing is clear: something like that elicits a myriad of emotions. Strong emotions. And opinions. I have them. You have them. There's no surprise there.

(And if you are curious where I stand in those discussions, my twitter feed will clue you in a bit.)

But the one emotion I kept seeing, from parents all over the place, was fear. I can't even count how many times I read a status update on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter about how afraid moms and dads are to have their children grow up in this kind of world; that thinking about the future for our children is downright scary; that this is not the kind of world, nation, society we want our children to be raised in.

And that is an entirely valid emotion. Fear is an obvious response to someone shooting even one person, let alone 102.

What parent doesn't think about the world our children are growing up in, especially in light of an event so egregious and down-right terrifying? I know my husband and I have conversations about that quite often. After all, the Lord has placed these precious children in our care. It's our job to see to it that they are looked after, kept safe and raised well. How can we possibly do such a thing when their lives are potentially in danger? When they are exposed to filthy images and language in school, on television, even simply walking around town? When the enemy is lying to them at every turn?

It's a valid question. 

And my response is two-fold.

First, there is nothing new under the sun. Satan is the same liar he has always been. There's nothing new there. Every single generation has had it's challenges in raising children and in battling the culture. Everyone always thinks they're living in the worst of it. 

But second, and most important, we cannot parent out of fear. We cannot allow the emotion of fear to control how we make decisions. Good decisions aren't made as a result of fear. Good decisions are made as a result of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, patience and trust. 

And I would submit that as parents, the best decisions are made as a result of the wisdom, knowledge, understanding and patience we can only gain through the Holy Spirit. The best decisons are made as a result of trusting in the Lord.

So in a sense, it's important to have fear when parenting, but fear of the Lord, not fear of the circumstances.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love Psalm 33:18

That verse came up in my Facebook feed this morning and I thought, "What a perfect verse for today and such a good reminder. We shouldn't fear the world around us, or the direction of our nation, as it seems to be burning down before our very eyes. But instead, we are to fear Him. Because in Him, there is hope and that Hope is unfailing and steadfast because our Hope is Jesus Christ. No need to fear. All the reason to hope. This is not our home, we are only passing through."

Because here's what it comes down to: I can't control a lot of what happens in our world, in our country, in my own city. I have little influence over which leaders are elected (but please, still vote!) or how they act, what the Supreme Court rules or even what someone else's child says to my child. But you know where I do have significant influence? Far more than any president or leader or politician or school teacher? In my home, with my family, over my children.

Mothers in particular, have you considered that?

Great men like Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley and George Washington (among many many others) credit who they became to their mothers. Moms, we are essential to the raising and nurturing of our children, not only because they are our children, but because they are the generation coming up behind us. We are essentially raising and building up society within the walls of our very own homes.

But back to that incredible verse written by the Psalmist, because it's vital to our response when tragedies occur and it's vital to our parenting decisions. 

First and foremost, we must, must fear the Lord. That is the fear that should be ever present.

But also, right along with that fear, we must hope.

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Moms, dads, right now, I urge you to replace your fears with hope. And not just any hope. The hope that is found in Christ alone. For He is the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope we can rely upon always. For He is unchanging, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and forevermore. We can hope in His steadfast love because, as Paul writes in Romans,

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,9

So rather than wallowing in the depravity of our present reality, rather than mourning what seems to be the destruction of our nation and rather than fearing what might happen tomorrow or the next day (Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow didn't He?), we are to hope in Christ. And furthermore, as parents, we are to teach our children to do the same.

That influence we have over our children, pray earnestly and continuously that God would use it to bring them to Him. And point them always to the cross, to the Christ, to salvation and eternal life, because no matter what happens to you and me, no matter what happens to them, so long as we belong to Jesus, nothing, no.thing. can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.