When I first became a Christian back in the late 1980’s I knew of a single mother who was a member of the church where I got saved. She was a Sunday school teacher and I believe was also a teacher in the Christian school that was run by the church. I remember as a new Christian, I still had worldly interests and thought nothing of talking about all my adventures and escapades, not realizing at the time that godly people weren’t sharing my enthusiasm for the stories I told. They were gentle and patient with me, until I began figuring it out on my own. But this particular mother and her two children really stuck in my mind…in the wrong way…back then.
As a child, I was afforded so many opportunities to experience so much of what life had to offer. Some of those experiences were good. Other experiences were not so good. I had amassed a large inventory of stories from my experiences at many concerts, movies, vacations, Broadway theater, and many other things over the years. Not all of the things I experienced and shared with others were bad things. But much of it was borderline, if not completely wrong to be sharing. But I wasn’t sensitive to the difference yet. I wanted to share everything with those two children, who, at the time, were about in their teens.
I can remember not having much access to them. She and her children would leave school or church at the end of the day, and they would go straight home where they rarely went out. I was doing some work on a house next door to where they lived one week, and I never saw anyone outside. The shades were all drawn. The car moved places in the yard occasionally, but rarely did anyone venture out of that house. When I inquired about that family to someone, their response was that their mother was trying her best to shelter them. That was the first time I had come to learn of the concept of a mother trying to shelter her kids.
I was so disappointed for those kids. They’ll NEVER get to do any of what I used to do, and still did as a new Christian. I can remember feeling anger toward their mother for keeping them from these things. I believed her kids were going to grow up to be socially maladjusted kids with no sense of what it takes to survive in this world. What did they do in that house anyway? Did they wake up, read the Bible, pray, go to school, have milk and cookies for snack, do homework, eat dinner, do evening devotions, pray, and then go to bed? I’ll bet they didn’t even have a TV! What kind of life is that? They must have been miserable!!! And again, I grappled with the question of just what kind of mother robs their kids of a childhood?
Fast-forward thirty years and I wish I was a dad to the same extent she was when it came to sheltering my own children. Think about this: every parent watches out for their own child’s physical safety. We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We teach them to stay away from ledges. We teach them to stay away from water if they can’t swim. We teach them to stay away from strangers. We implore them not to drive fast. We teach them to wash their hands before eating. We do so many things to ensure that our children remain physically healthy and physically safe. That, of course is a good thing. Here’s the problem…we say we want to protect them spiritually, but our actions don’t match that sentiment.
My girls used to watch TV about half-hour in the morning and a half-hour before bed. It was relegated to a few stations that are decent. My girls are 10 and 7 and still watch the Berenstain Bears and shows like it. While other girls are parading around public schools with Hanna Montana backpacks, my girls would have no idea who Hanna Montana is! That’s the way I like it. Read up on the troubles Hanna Montana is having right now as she changes her image, and decide for your self what kind of parent I’d be if I had allowed my girls to become enthralled with her and want to emulate her. My girls are no more socially maladjusted because they are still watching “kids” shows. I believe it’s just the opposite…they’re doing better having positive values continuously reinforced.
We don’t allow our girls to get involved, or watch anything that contradicts or challenges what they are learning from church and is being reinforced in our home. That’s why we have cancelled our cable subscription which allows us 100% control over their viewing habits. We only allow them on to the websites we have chosen and they know to access them through the “Favorites” tab. We don’t let them listen to just any kind of music. They still listen to CD’s that contain “kids” songs. We carefully filter out the movies that we view as a family when we have “family movie night.” My girls have begun to watch the oldies like the Dick Van Dyke show, and Shirley Temple, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, and many others of the like.
It’s got to be that way. The devil is after our children. They have innocent hearts that are ready to witness at a moment’s notice. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes with my oldest. But if the devil can entice your child away, that is one wounded soldier in God’s army at best, and at worst, that soldier goes AWOL for a spell. Either way, the devil renders a soldier ineffective for the Lord. So, your child may not be physically incapacitated, but they sure can be spiritually incapacitated. We must shelter our children from sin or else they may just get devoured.
Did you know that in a couple of places in the Bible, birds are used to depict sin, demons, or evil ones? In Luke 8, the fowls of the air came and devoured the seeds of the gospel sown to those who heard (Luke 8:5, 11-12). Also, Mark 4:30-32 describes the fowls as false teachers and professors of the faith that were not true believers. Keep that in mind as we look at a story about a lady in 2nd Samuel 21 named Rizpah.
The story of Rizpah begins all the way in Chapter three. There are many angles from which to approach this story. But I want to focus on what she did in Chapter 21 that should be truly inspiring to us, and should convict many of us over how careless we are with the spiritual health of our children. See, two of Rizpah’s sons had been sentenced to a death that King David allowed to happen. As the bodies of her sons, along with five other bodies, lay unprotected from the elements and scavengers, Rizpah held vigil over the bodies of her two sons: “And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread if for her upon the rock, from the beginning of the harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the BIRDS of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beast of the field by night” (2nd Samuel 21:10).
You know what’s shameful? Here is a mother who is doing her best to preserve the physical bodies of her two sons from being consumed and devoured by the predators…and her sons are dead! Realistically, deceased bodies are no longer of use to anyone any longer. Yet she was so devoted to her sons that she made sure nothing touched them physically. Our children are still alive, and if our children are saved, then they’re alive in Christ! Yet we make very little effort to keep them from being devoured by the fowls of this world. We can’t take five minutes to ensure our children aren’t doing things they shouldn’t be doing, yet Rizpah was willing to sit and guard her deceased sons indefinitely until the rains came and the famine was eradicated. Those two sons’ time had run out, but our children’s time has scarcely just begun!
Praise God we are able to shelter our children in a Christian school that doesn’t expose them to shows like Hanna Montana, Glee, and High School Musical. At home, we take great pains to control the two forms of media that are the greatest risk to our children’s spiritual health…the television and the computer (including the Internet). Children 2-5 spend, on average, 32 hours a week watching TV. On average, a child, by the time they turn 18, will have viewed 200,000 violent acts and witnessed 16,000 murders. Studies have shown that the more these acts of violence are viewed, the higher the likelihood a child will develop aggressive behavior later in life.
TV, movies, and the Internet advertise alcohol incessantly. Alcohol is rarely shown in any negative light, and it’s been found that the more children are exposed to alcohol and drinking in various forms of media, the more favorable they are to alcohol in general. That’s not what we want our children to grow up thinking. As for smoking, it was discovered that the greatest trigger that got someone to start smoking was NOT peer pressure or even that their parents smoked. Nope! The greatest trigger to begin smoking in youth was the portrayal of a character or an actor who promoted smoking.
Of course, there’s the whole issue of sexual immorality on the Internet and on the television. Of the top twenty popular TV shows for teens, up to 70% contain sexual content. And, of course, the research supports the notion that the more sexual content a teen is exposed to will increase the likelihood of beginning to experiment with sex at an early age and either become pregnant, or cause a pregnancy. All of these studies, and more, are available on-line at http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm#health.
Can we stop thinking our kids can get through this on their own?! We can’t! So why should we expect them to? We are stewards of children that were given to us on loan from God! Would you want your child’s babysitter to take a nap while your 3-year-old child played in traffic? Of course not! But that’s what we’re doing when we “sleep” on the job of raising our children and when we shirk our responsibilities of beating off the buzzards to keep them from devouring our children’s innocence! Yes, we need to be more like Rizpah and less like Eli (1st Samuel 2-4).
Also, it’s not just watching what they view directly. Second-hand smoke from cigarettes can be harmful, so any program you, as a parent are watching, can be overheard by a child in the next room. Dialogue on TV now has become lewd and crude, and not only in prime time, but thanks to syndication, shows like Two and a Half Men are on early in the afternoon and evening. Music that you listen to with questionable lyrics contains sound that travels out of the immediate room you are in and reaches the ears of your child down the hall.
Oh, if it only stopped there. But the effort needs to be put into who our children’s friends are. If you’ve never met them, and they’re teens who are picking up your teen to spend an afternoon “just hanging,” you can’t be OK with that! Even if your child is a godly Christian and won’t partake of alcohol, or drugs, or any other inappropriate activity while they’re out, why allow them to be in an awkward situation where they need to be rescued by you to avoid being dropped off at home later that evening by a driver who may be impaired?
We have our challenges at 10 and 7 years old, but it needs to start when they’re young so that you aren’t pulling in the reins suddenly when they’re older, because that just might give them an excuse to rebel. My wife and I have made a commitment to each other that it’s either a private Christian education, or it’s home schooling. We will not be happy in the least having to sacrifice them to the public school system of secular humanism. We’re going to keep sheltering them, because that’s a good and noble and right thing to do. If you believe otherwise…I hope you would reconsider.
One last thing about birds. The Bible says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). That means we can’t see the “birds” and the “fowls,” but they’re there. Imagine watching “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock and envision that to be a portrayal of the unseen evil forces at work ready to devour our children. If physical birds attacked you, you would do what the characters in the movie did, you’d run your children into the house and shut the doors, close the windows, draw the shades, and not venture out of the house…exactly what that single mom from my church did years ago, only now, years later, I understand the value of that commitment and I’m on her side!!!