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Equipping Our Children With a Map for Life

In the battle for the hearts and minds of our children, we need to recognize that they need our intentional guidance in countering the deceptions of life.


by Kurt Bruner

 

Few tasks are as frustrating as the effort to locate a new address using a less-than-precise map. My wife, Olivia, is one of those people who tends to trust her memory when listening to directions, often missing certain details. By contrast, I typically ask probing questions about distances between streets and landmarks, using crayons and a metric ruler to draw a map that will be color-coded and to scale. The diagram in hand when we pull out of the driveway generally ends up somewhere between these two extremes.

We have entered many social gatherings late and tense as a result of my part of our combined mapping efforts. We miss the right street, turn onto the wrong street, head the wrong direction on the right street, or head the right direction on the wrong street! Once finding the general area, we circle the block several time before calling and asking for help. It can be so embarrassing!

Just as a reliable map is essential for reaching an unfamiliar location, our understanding of the world must be accurate if we hope to reach our objectives in life. Imagine the frustration and futility of trying to find a certain location in Denver using a map of Dallas. Yet we too easily ask our children to try to navigate life based upon a faulty worldview, and the consequences can be far worse than embarrassing.

If life is generally difficult, but our map says it should be generally easy, we will encounter disillusionment. Our beliefs about life will not change its reality one bit. They will, however, cause us to develop expectations and make decisions that are inconsistent with what is true. We will be making wrong turns on a regular basis.

Those who follow the wrong map may become frustrated over the inefficiency of their efforts. Other people seem to make more progress and reach their goals with less exertion. Advancing toward a given objective is not dependent upon the amount of energy we expend, but upon whether or not we are heading in the right direction.

A critical part of our role as parents is helping our children to develop a life map consistent with reality. We must replace false directions with accurate ones.

When lies are presented as truth

It may seem elementary to suggest that we must help our kids understand and accept truth. But several factors add complexity to what should be a simple process. Distinguishing the truth from lies can be difficult, especially when lies are presented as truth.

As parents, we must not forget that we live in enemy-occupied territory. There is a great deceiver who has mastered the art of manipulating life’s drama to blind our eyes to the truth and to confuse our perception of reality. Jesus pulled no punches when He described the unpleasant but undeniable reality of Satan’s primary weapon.

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

If we are abused, we know it. If we are tempted or oppressed, we know it. But when we are deceived, we don’t know it! That is why lies are such powerful weapons in the battle for the hearts and minds of our children. Satan understands the power and influence of deception. Do we?

Fortunately we have an even more powerful weapon in this battle: truth. We can dispel the darkness of lies with the light of truth. As Jesus said earlier in the same passage:

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)

Tragically, our tendency as fallen people is to reject what is true in favor of what is comfortable, and to choose what is familiar over what is right. As damaging as a lie may be, we often prefer it over reality. As Jesus said:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis shed light on what happens when we seek what is comfortable rather than what is true. “Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

In the battle for the hearts and minds of our children, we need to recognize that they need our intentional guidance in countering the deceptions of life. Otherwise they will accept an imperfect life map, altering their view of reality. Points of deviation must be identified and corrected with the truth as soon as possible.

How does this apply to our theology of parenting? By understanding that children enter this world with blurred vision, with an inability to recognize reality as it truly is, we can become more intentional about helping them to sort through deception and to recognize truth. We need something we call the Lenses Principle: 

Our children need the corrective lenses of truth in order to navigate the deceptive roads of life.

We live in a culture that has in large part rejected this principle, with tragic consequences. One of the reasons that beliefs and behaviors once considered depraved are now considered normal is that parents have been reluctant to teach children a standard of absolute moral truth.

Off center

Have you ever attempted to center a picture on the wall? I usually insist that I can do so without using measuring tape. Several misplaced holes later, I am convinced that my plan to eyeball the job has led to failure. With that “I told you so” look in her eye, Olivia hands me a measuring tape so that I can redo the job properly.

The Old Testament book of Judges describes the tragic consequences when we allow our children to “eyeball” life by failing to give them an objective standard of truth. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6), the author of the book wrote. In the absence of a godly leader, chaos ensued. Whatever suited the community at that moment was the definition of right. “If it feels good, do it!” became their motto. The people lived in total disregard of the standards of truth God had given.

As a result, the people lived way off center and raised their children off center. They worshiped heathen idols, and they forgot the God who had done so much for them. The Lord had to allow foreign powers to conquer and enslave His people in order to recapture their attention and get them back on track. Because they ignored the objective truth they were given, God had to step in and “redo the job” in order to preserve His people.

The role of mom and dad is too important to be treated lightly. Our kids need us to take the task seriously. They need us to clearly establish “normal” in their lives. This means setting standards based on God’s rules and instilling values based on God’s perspective.

Writing to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul provided the key to correcting our blurred vision, to establishing a right angle on truth in our lives.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Put simply, the battle is for the mind. We have an enemy who seeks to enslave our children to lies. But we can help dispel the darkness of deception by giving our kids the light of truth. When we do, we just might begin a cycle that will last several generations. According to Psalm 78:

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. (Psalm 78:5-8)

We live according to what we believe to be true, whether that belief is valid or not. Transforming the mind is a lifelong process of replacing false beliefs and perceptions with true ones. As those with the primary responsibility of shaping the perspectives of our children, we parents must understand the vital importance of giving them the corrective lenses of truth.

Adapted from It Starts at Home by Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope. Published by Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois. Copyright ©2010. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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