I just finished another book in the “teen fiction” genre. And again I’m reminded that we as parents, mentors and teachers of teens and young people have GOT to be aware of the messages our kids are soaking in from the world; because in many senses of the word, this book was “good”. The story was gripping. The writing was raw and real and honest. The characters were believable and the plotline sort of grabbed you up and carried you along. I finished it in two days. I even cried. But the central message was worldly. It lacked Truth. Cursing was common and sex was a given. The question of God was discussed, but no True Answer was ever reached.
I won’t mention the title of the book, because I don’t want this to be misconstrued as a book recommendation. But it was written within the last few years, and yes, it was made into a movie (not that that narrows it down much…lots of teen fiction seems to make it to the movies these days). Anyway, the point is that this book and books like it are highly influential over lots of people, but especially the teen and young adult audiences. I’m sure some can see the worldly messages, but I’m positive many do not. A compelling love story wrapped up with teenage angst and frustration probably makes a lot of sense to a lot of teens. And if the teen isn’t grounded in the Truth of God’s Word, then they are likely to develop a very confused opinion about this story. And that’s a big deal. Because confused teens can become “free thinking” college students and one day very “tolerant” adults.
That’s why I was reminded again that we have to be VERY AWARE of the messages our teens and kids are receiving. And we have to be prepared to combat the lies at every front. We can’t let some things slide or assume that any sin is “not that big a deal”. We have to address each and every lie so that our kids are so well-armed with the Truth that they cannot be confused by the messages Satan and the world sends. And to do this well, we’ve got to be familiar with the music, literature, movies and internet media that is influencing them.
Here’s a preschool example: When our oldest kids were young we listened to a LOT of kid music. You know, the high energy and sometimes annoying little jingles that get stuck in your head and pop up in embarrassing moments like when you find yourself humming them alone in the grocery story or wherever! J One CD we had was about Bible stories and one of the songs told the story of Noah and the flood. But every time the line came on “No-ah said Go shut the door” we hit pause. And we reminded…did Noah shut the door or did God shut the door? Because it matters…very much.
A young child example was the year and a half we listened to every single Magic Treehouse audiobook that was out at the time. Almost every book we had to pause and reprogram….”Is there really such a thing as a good witch?” No. “Is sorcery something that pleases God?” No. And for the youngest “Can people really be turned into mice?” No.
An older child example occurred a few nights ago while we were watching a kid’s movie with our kids. One of the characters referred to someone as “sexy”. It was one of those moments when you think “If I just stare at the screen and we move to the next scene will it just roll over their heads?” No. Our ten-year-old said “What’s sexy?” And the answer God popped into my head was “Thinking someone is pretty but in an immodest sort of way.” The blessing is our kids are still at a pretty literal stage. They think “pretty = good”, but “immodest = bad”, so “sexy = not something I want to be”. At least, that’s what they think for now. Until the world sends them the next confusing message about beauty and sexuality and relationships.
For the last ten years I’ve been a parent of mostly young children. Others have said to me along the way (usually at moments when I clearly hadn’t slept more than 6 hours that week or when I was chasing a two year old across the parking lot while holding my four-year old’s hand and trying to balance a baby on my hip while carrying my purse, diaper bag and someone’s shoe) “It will get easier!” “One day they’ll carry their own stuff!” “Before you know it they’ll be in school.” And while these changes are definitely physically easier, parenting becomes harder in so many ways. Because all of a sudden their lives are open to the worldly influence of so many…authors, movie producers, friends, non-Christian coaches and teachers, television networks, website operators etc.
And that brings me to my teen example. My kids aren’t reading teen fiction yet, and they won’t be watching movies like this for many years. But lots of preteens, teens and young adults are. And I wonder if anyone is talking them through these things? Is anyone reminding them that the ultimate purpose of life is not to be happy, healthy, well-liked and in love? Are there teens and young adults in my own life that need to be walked through the Truth? Of course.
But am I willing to do it? That’s the deeper question. It’s hard to keep up with what our kids are reading and watching. It takes time and energy, and sometimes their favorite whatever isn’t really our favorite whatever and we’d rather just do our own thing. But we have to keep up. We have to expose ourselves to the books and music our kids are exposed to. We have to watch their favorite shows. We have to check out their favorite websites and get to know their friends, coaches and teachers well. Because we have to be prepared to remind them of the Truth at every turn. We have to be prepared to counter the sometimes subtle lies of this world with a Biblical worldview. It takes time, it takes sacrifice, but we have to do it. I have to do it. Because one day I won’t be the one chasing my child across the parking lot and someone else may want to hold my daughter’s hand. And I want them to be ready to face the influences of the world.
As a parent I have a voice and a responsibility to speak Truth into my kids’ lives. As a Christian I have a voice and a responsibility to speak Truth into the lives of other teens and young adults who aren’t hearing the Truth in this world. Let’s pray today that God will help us see this world through Biblical eyes, and take the time to teach others to do the same!