“Sally, how can I be sure that my children won’t be tempted by all the evil in the world,” a sweet mama asked me.
“You can’t.” I replied. Part of your job as a mom is not to hide them from the world and scare them about what is in the world, but to arm them with the purpose of becoming a warrior for God’s kingdom in dark places, so that they will not be overcome or surprised by the challenges they will encounter as adults.”
Warrior, running toward the battle to take ground for God’s kingdom.
Refugee–running away from the battle and seeking to escape engaging in the fray.
My children’s stories definitely stretched me–but God was with me and He was my protector and guide through each step of the journey.
“What, Nathan? You want to move to New York City and attend the film academy? You are only 19–it is a difficult place? You really want us to pray about this?!”
“I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Jesus, about His disciples, in John 17: 15
And so send him, we did. And Joel and Sarah to Cambridge, Joel to Boston for school, Sarah to Oxford, and trusted them to God’s call on their lives–and Joy to an out of state college.
Not too long ago, a friend whispered to me at a conference, “Sally, there are all sorts of women that I know who attend your conferences because they are encouraged, but they are criticizing you behind your back. They are asking the question, ‘How did the Clarksons allow their son to move to Hollywood, such a wicked place, if they have such high moral ideals?’ They think you are living a compromise to your life as a Christian.”
I am not surprised at statements like these. We get them all the time. I have always told my children that if you stand up to lead, you automatically become a target.
Yet, I also understand the concerns of these people who are criticizing us.
I have also been criticized for over-protecting my children. But the over-protection was for shaping their foundations when they were young and vulnerable. (keeping them innocent, giving them g-rated hero stories, giving them protection from peers whose values are worldly at a young age so they can develop their own foundations–before sending them out!) Keeping them loving what is good, true, honest.–And then as they begin to ask questions and grow and learn and show maturity–you take them with you in ministry, little by little, was the philosophy we followed.
I did not ask God to send my children into difficult, morally challenging arenas. But I did ask Him to help Clay and me build them into godly leaders who would take His light to a dark world. And, since they are adults and we released them into God’s hands to follow what road He put on their heart, (with input from us all along the way), I spend a lot of time on my knees every day and ask for God to guide, intervene and protect my children.
Yet, I think at some point in the Christian life, regardless of peers, our church’s stand, our friend’s opinions, blogs, loud voices giving pontificating statements, we must decide just who we think Jesus is and how His life and words should influence the way we live and the choices we make. There are few radical Christians and yet, He calls us to live radically–even if that means staying at home with your children to disciple them or serving Him in in the world in an unusual places–we must follow Him, not anyone else.
Jesus does not call us to a safe life–but to follow His life.
Jesus, the exact image of God, related to prostitutes and offered them a clean slate of forgiveness, and allowed them to touch Him and wash His feet.
Jesus, touched the infirm and contaminated–the lepers, the woman who was unclean, the blind, the sick.
Jesus looked out on the multitudes not with condemnation, but with compassion and told us to pray that God would send laborers into the harvest. He also sent His disciples into the world to redeem it.
Jesus did not exalt and affirm the Pharisees who had rules and laws for everything and stayed away from the “wicked” folk. Instead, he told the parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the “unacceptable” from a religious point of view, but the only one who was able to please God. He honored because he got involved, because he lived in a compassionate way and gave of his life to save the beaten man, a victim of thieves, unlovely and in the dirt.
I think serving Jesus will, at some point, make all of us uncomfortable.
And so, I had to confront my own belief in what I thought was most Biblical in philosophy for raising children.
I wanted an Anne of Green Gables life that was safe, protected and always g-rated. But, that is not the world God into which He placed me.
So I had to consider, “What is your will for my children.” He answered, “To follow Jesus to the cross, to be willing to give up their lives to redeem the world for His glory–to become a warrior for Christ’s kingdom.
A warrior is one who sees the battle in his land, and is willing to sacrifice his life to protect those he loves, to save them from harm and to engage the enemy in battle. Battle is rough, costly, difficult and requires sacrifice for the sake of the people who are being warred against.
Now a refugee, on the other hand, is one who runs away from the battle, in order to protect himself or his loved ones. When there is no defense against the enemy, often, people are forced to flee. But in fleeing away from the battle, they leave no impact, no defense, for those left in the wake of the raging enemy army.
Often I see parents who raise their children to run away from the cultural battles and to stay far off from those who are lost and broken and who have scars and difficulties. They find it easy to criticize those who are engaged in bringing the light of Christ into the arena of darkness–this is the place in which our family receives criticism.
I will admit that the world can be a very fearful place to be. And I spend a whole lot of time in prayer for my young, idealistic warriors!
But, God has asked me, as a mom, to live by faith, not to look to the limitations of my own life and this wicked world we live in, but to the God who tells us to overcome evil with good, to remain faithful, to endure.
So, as a mom, I had to ask, “Would He have me do anything less than send my own children, as God sent His own son, into the world to redeem dark places?”
And so when we read in the Psalms,
“Praise be to the LORD my Rock,who trains my hands for war,my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer,my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144: 1-2, we would pray with our children. ”Lord, these are your children created by you with a personality and a purpose. Train our children for the spiritual warfare in which they will engage. Prepare them for the battles they will confront. Be their fortress, their stronghold, deliverer and shield. They are not ours to hold on to, but ours to prepare for your kingdom purposes.”
Depending on what you decide, preparing one to run away from the battle or to engage in the battle, will require a very different parenting philosophy.
But as for the Clarksons, we will seek to engage in the battle, and rub shoulders with the lost, because we cannot do other than what our Lord and savior showed us to do–to go into the world to make disciples, to see the multitudes with compassion and to become workers in the Harvest field of the world.
Nathan has chosen to answer the call of God and engage the warrior story that was written on his heart. Recently, he has written a study with the 10 aspects of what it means to become a hero.