The Best Defense

KissesFromKatie cover“The best defense is a good offense” sports pundits say, but either parents don’t believe it or they don’t think it applies to raising their children.

Of late I’ve seen two general styles of parenting. One is protective and the other permissive. I suspect most parents are tempted to be permissive. Nobody likes to say no to a beautiful little child you love with all your heart. But some choose to be protective instead.

Permissive parents seem to believe in the Humankind-is-good idea so prevalent in Western society. They want to encourage their children, nurture them, educate them, and let them know they can do whatever they put their minds to.

The problem, of course, with this approach is that children can not do whatever they put their minds to. No matter how much they want to be butterflies, they aren’t going to become butterflies. No matter how much they want to be like LeBron or Kobe, they (most of them, anyway) aren’t going to become the next great NBA basketball player. Nothing wrong with trying hard and doing your best, but why lie to kids and give them false expectations?

Besides, giving kids their head puts them in danger. They can try things they’re curious about that will become addictions or involve themselves with people who want to use or abuse them. They themselves might even become the one who bullies or who abandons (after all, life is, they’ve been taught, all about what they want).

Parents who take the protective route tend to be the ones who see Humankind as sinful by nature. Hence, there is much to protect children from–the stranger, the kid next door, his liberal teacher, his ungodly classmates, shysters selling things outside grocery stores, the homeless, frauds coming to your door selling things, people of a different religion, from a different part of town, who speak a different language, who vote differently. The list is endless, and the means by which these parents try to protect their children can be exhausting.

Interestingly, the Bible gives lots of advice to parents, none particularly aligned with either the permissive or protective approach. Here’s one key passage, originally written by Solomon to his son.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways
(Proverbs 2:6-15a – emphasis mine)

Notice, this passage says God is the one who will protect our kids. He gives wisdom, is a shield, and preserves their way. At some point then, after being infused with God’s wisdom, kids can discern which way to go. They’ll know what they need to know about justice and righteousness, and that knowledge will protect them against those who would harm them.

The perfect example of this kind of God protection is Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie. I don’t know how her parents raised her except for the fact that I see the outcome. At eighteen, Katie left her comfortable home in Tennessee and went to Uganda to teach. After a short time she began adopting children, decided to stay in Uganda, and started a ministry called Amazima to provide the means for children to get an education.

Clearly, she was not acting like a child who had been protected from all that could be dangerous. She faced the dangerous every day–people with TB, who had ringworm, were HIV-positive, had infections and open sores. She dealt with rats and cockroaches and malaria-carrying mosquitoes. She was a single white woman, a teenager, who didn’t speak the local language, and yet she simply went about showing people the love of Jesus by loving them herself.

Why would she? How could she? Here’s how she explained it:

Jesus wrecked my life. For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. But I loved Jesus.

And the fact that I loved Jesus was beginning to interfere with the plans I once had for my life and certainly with the plans others had for me. My heart had been apprehended by a great love, a love that compelled me to live differently.

Katie went on to explain that at twelve or thirteen she began to “delve into the truths of Scripture.” In short she turned to God for wisdom and found “knowledge and understanding.” She knew well before the adults in her life that she didn’t have to protect herself or rely on the protection her parents could provide. Instead, she could travel half-way around the world and live with and love people who knew poverty and deprivation that most in the Western world can’t even imagine. And she could trust that God would shield her and preserve her way.

So maybe there’s a third way for parents to raise kids–putting them on the offensive. If children learn early that God is the source of wisdom, that He is their shield, that He will preserve their way, then they can disarm people with love and fill them with truth.

We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands.
― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

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Published in: on February 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments Off on The Best Defense  
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