My pastor gave his final sermon last Sunday. He’s our associate pastor. A great guy, really good teacher and just got a job as a senior pastor of a big church in the Valley. I knew it wouldn’t be long.
His message touched on something I’ve been thinking about for a while and which coincidentally fits in my study of 1 Kings and the life of Elijah. He told a story about one time when he went surfing by himself, got caught in a riptide and found himself far from where he began and disoriented as to which way he needed to go to get back to square one.
The concept of drifting, spiritually, culturally, subtly has been on my mind – especially as I begin the process of parenting a teenager.
1 Kings was written to people in exile. The Bible made it clear that bad behavior, particularly embracing foreign gods would lead to exile. 1 Kings was written largely to remind people how they got where they are and how then can return. It’s basically a report card. 1 kings gives a pass or fail grade to each of the kings – not based on how well they ran government but how well they kept the covenant. Did they lead people to greater love of YHWH or did they lead people to pursue foreign gods? Good kings were given a grade of “like his father David,” and bad kings were given the grade of “like Jereboam.” Ahab was a bad king.
So Israel followed the living God, right? What would tempt them to follow a pagan god like baal?
Embracing foreign deities and pagan worship doesn’t happen in an instant. Changes occur over time. God originally told the settlers of the promised land not to mix with the foreign people, but to make sure that this land was dedicated to worshipping YHWH. But Joshua made a hasty covenant with the Gibeonites and bam, there goes the neighborhood. They may not have felt any different right away. It might have taken a while. But when kids start playing together, when business deals get done together, when there could be serious financial advantages to inter marriage (See Ezra 9 for example), when you live in an agrarian economy, wholly dependent upon rain and your neighbors worship baal, the rain god…
No doubt this was a topic of many Saturday sermons,” what’s wrong with young people today?” “Is bacon all that bad? How do we stay separate?” and “Don’t forget Noah,” might have been some of the titles.
My oldest wanted an Ipod. She wanted my Ipod to be exact. This was the topic of many a conversation over a period of at least a year. After I got my Iphone, my 11 year old coincidentally received an Ipod under her pillow from the tooth fairy (by the way, each of our kids gets a different tooth fairy and along with the usual cash exchange per tooth comes a personalized letter from their TF).
Of course it wasn’t long before this darling child began to complain about how lame her Ipod touch was and how she needed more gigs or whatever. The big mistake I made came when I ignorantly said “okay” to her request to have an Instagram account. I had used instagram before. It was a cool way to filter photos and share pictures. I thought to myself, oh that’s cool. She’ll share photos with her little friends, that’s fun.” Little did I know.
Ipods, Instagram, social media, these are all portals from the world into my home and into the heart of my then pre-teen. Every day since has been a battle of control. The reality is that there is a current…a rip-tide as it were that is constantly pulling me and my kids away from home base and Biblical values for life. It requires vigilance and much to the chagrin of my teen, many conversations about how we are to live in this culture.
We’re mostly battling things like fashion – how much skin can I show? What kind of swimwear? Look at this fabulous belly button! And Media who can I follow and what should I post on Instagram? What kinds of songs are okay to download? And Church – It’s so boring! I don’t have any friends there! Do we have to?
Everyone is doing it…I said this when I was a kid. It didn’t work then. I had no convincing evidence to show my parents that my bad behavior was perfectly normal and acceptable, Now of course we have digital proof that everyone is probably doing it and my teen is not shy about pointing it out.
I am not writing this post as an advice column for the struggling parent. I am the struggling parent, observing the difficulty of parenting in the age of digital media. I am totally open to suggestions. How do you stem the tide and the cultural pull on our families?
Here are some things we are trying:
- Keep praying – Successful parenting is staying faithful, in the power of the Holy Spirit to point our kids to Jesus and then leave the results up to God. We are constantly fighting the desire to justify ourselves through good parenting and obedient kids, but it’s God that justifies us and He is ultimately the one we need to entrust our kids to.
- Keep talking – We usually take turns – depending on who is the least attached to the latest conflict, but we are constantly trying to process our concerns with our teen. She might think we are out of touch and completely nuts (and she often does) but at least we’re consistent! It’s hard to stay unemotional and I often fail at this, but I want to keep the dialogue going and plow through the hard discussions as best as I know how.
- Keep it together – Jen and I are a team. We need to work on this together, trust each other and support each other.
- Keep on keeping on – “Do not grow weary in doing good,” Galatians teaches us. We have both had the “that’s it, I quit” moments. We need to avoid the temptation to listen to the “you’re a loser and a bad parent” narrative and preach the gospel to ourselves. Trust in God. He’s in charge. He loves our kids. Hang in there and trust Him.