Scripture is clear on the matter of our hearts. We are to be vigilant about protecting them because that stuff that goes into our hearts? Yeah, it is going to surface somewhere sooner or later.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~Proverbs 4:23
We seem to grasp this to an extent. We protect our hearts, though perhaps somewhat haphazardly, because everything we do flows from what we have taken in. You know what I’m talking about. That ugly word you muttered when you hit your toe on the door frame? Yep. That didn’t come out of nowhere…you may or may not realize the source of your sin…but it comes from somewhere in the depths of your heart. Pride, lies, selfish ambition, you name it! I’m not simply talking about media or entertainment here. We feed our minds and souls with all kinds of things: television shows, literature, social media, toxic friendships, music on the radio, gossip with coworkers, prideful thoughts, negative relationships…the list goes on. All that stuff you take in? It will come back sooner or later.
Now, let’s not be unecessarily discouraged about the junk you have fed your mind. There’s still time to turn this bus around. The good stuff will resurface too. Encouraging friendships, reading God’s truth and promises in scripture, listening to music that worships the Creator and refocuses the soul, Bible studies with other believers, time spent in prayer, entertainment that fuels your soul in a healthy way, and a life well-spent loving others and serving them? These things will have a huge impact as well.
We get it…mostly, we really grasp this command from God. We are to guard our hearts because they’re the wellsprings of all we do in this life.
Still, I hear it all of the time.
I don’t want to shelter my child. They have to learn that this stuff exists in the world.
What?!?! Hold. The. Phone. I think my jaw drops everytime. It is always a well meaning friend and I kind of relate to what she is saying…a teensy, weensy bit. And yes, I do have a responsibility to teach my children about the fallen world we live in, about the hurt, about the sin. I have to teach them about the hard stuff in life so that they may be lights in the darkness, world-changers, strong to stand up against the messiness of life. That is indeed my responsibility….but let’s rewind a bit! Should I teach my children about the junk in the world by exposing them to it and allowing them to experience more and more of the sin as they grow older? What?! No. Absolutely not. Sweet friends, as parents, please tell me that we are smarter and wiser than this.
God has commanded us, right there in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts. Right? So…if you and I are guarding our hearts, we clearly understand the implications and believe the word of God enough to obey it. Here is my serious and desperate question to my fellow parents of the children in my children’s generation.
I am guarding my heart. You are guarding yours. Who, then, is guarding the hearts of our children?
Seriously, now. We tie their shoes, zip their coats, hold their hands as we cross the street, read them wholesome bedtime stories, feed them veggies (sometimes even organic produce, that is), instruct on manners, take them to church, choose good school districts, and coach their soccer teams. And then? We send them out into the world…increasingly allowing them to be exposed to more and more sin. Before we assume our innocence on this, may I suggest we all take a moment to consider the stuff our littles take in? Television shows, video games, friendships, movies, role models, songs on the radio, and even book series. (About the book series: as a teacher on hiatus, may I gently caution you to be aware of the content in the books your child is reading? It just might take your breath away to know the messages some of these authors send about authortity or moral issues.) Friends, it seems that we are buying into a lie from the enemy.
The lie says that we must toughen our children up to live in a cruel world by exposing them gradually to more and more sin. We really do want the best for them….but why the disconnect?
Why do we allow elementary school children to see films that we would deem unhealthy for a preschooler? Sure, the child is congnitively more mature. Is he really able to emotionally discern his way through sin? Let’s call it what it is. As a rating becomes more and more mature in a film, television show, or movie– we are exposing children to more and more sin. As an educator, I have spoken to many children on Monday morning that were still trying to sort out the content they absorbed over the weekend at the movie theater.
I don’t write this as an expert on parenting, by any means. My children are still very young. What do I know, right? Friends, I write this as a grown woman who is passionately pursuing Jesus Christ with my whole heart. I believe His word. I believe Him when He tells us that it is crucial that we guard our hearts.
And I accept the responsibility to guard the three little hearts that He has entrusted to my care.
I often heard my mom say this thing as we were growing up, perhaps in conversation with her friends, my dad, or another family member. She would say,
“God has entrusted us with these children. He has given us the responsibility to love them the best we can while they are still in our homes.”
Sure, we all make mistakes and I could write a novel about the parenting mishaps I have already had to own up to in the past six years of motherhood. I don’t get it all right…but I’m not about to throw in the towel. With my whole heart, I must seek God’s wisdom as I make decisions for my children who cannot yet make the best choices for themselves.
In my parents’ house as I was growing up and in my own home today, “stupid,” “shut up,” and, “I hate you,” were and are the bad words. When my brother and I were small, we (like many other children) only knew of those words as far as “cuss words” were concerned. (That was, of course, until we began watching a certain popular family movie of the early nineties that my parents eventually suspended to the top of our refrigerator, not to be viewed for many years.) …sorry, totally not the point…though that story really does only reiterate what I am saying. (I have shown my children the same movie, by the way. Hmmmm.) Where was I? Oh yes. The point is that my brother and I grew older. In time, we heard the real cuss words just like every other child in the first and second grades. It happens. Do you know what didn’t change in my parents’ home, however? The bad words. The words that had once been off-limits to us stayed off-limits. “Stupid,” “Shut-up,” and, “I hate you,” were not graduated into the “okay now” category simply because we were older and had “heard worse.” No. The words that had once been banned had been banned for a reason. That language remained unacceptable vocabulary for my parents’ household.
You see, there is no reason to gradually accelerate the level of sin we allow into our homes or into the lives of our children. Sin is sin. It is always sin. Sin doesn’t change with our maturity level. It doesn’t know an age. Sin will harm you and pull you under no matter the stage of life or the cognitive ability of your mind. All sin caused Jesus to die on the cross.
It may sound cliche, but we have to examine our hearts and what we allow into our minds…and perhaps we SHOULD stop and think, “Would this be allowed in our home if Jesus was a guest?” It won’t take long for us to answer this question. Too often, we think, “Well, Jesus sees all and knows all. He forgives all, so…” Um, dear friend, lean in closely. If I whisper this, perhaps I won’t sound too preachy: Shall we go on sinning so that grace can increase? Do you remember what Paul said about that very messed up (yet common and natural) thought process in the book of Romans? He replied, “Absolutely not!” We don’t sin just because we can repent of it later…or just because we can say, “Oh, well…we all sin. It’s just my human nature.” Sheesh. I’m all for grace…but let’s not set out to live sinful lives and justify it because God will forgive us. Yikes! This, my friends, is what Swindoll called “Grace-abusers.” Just don’t.
You see, I won’t get it all right in this parenting thing and I don’t. Tonight, I will repent of my ugly motherhood moments and I will hold tightly to Jesus, clinging to His grace and praying that He will guide me through the temptation to sin through impatient, ugly, haphazard motherhood moments. I need Jesus desperately because He has entrusted these three little hearts to the handsome music guy and myself. He has blessed us with this beautiful responsibility. My job is not to graduate my kids to more and more sin as they grow older. They’ll get enough exposure to sin and repentance by living with a mother who is a sinner. (I keep it real a bit more often than I would like to admit.) All children will get plenty of exposure to “worldliness” without being served a big dose of sin wrapped in a deceptive package that we call “entertainment,” or, “socially acceptable.” We live in a fallen world. Our kiddos aren’t going to miss out on the “real world” just because we keep them home from a movie that their peers go to see or refuse to buy a violent video game for them…at any age. (Violent video games…yuck…I’ll refrain from that soapbox.)
It isn’t our responsibility to lead children through a path of ugliness because “the real world is a cruel and harsh place.” No. It is our responsibility to raise adults who will be world changers: peaceful, compassionate, loving, merciful, Grace-giving, servant-hearted, hard-working, honest, forgiving, passionate, skilled, educated, faithful, kind, happy, trained, Jesus followers with a desire to make a difference in a harsh world full of sin. We aren’t just raising children. We are truly raising adults. This harsh, cruel world? All the more reason to teach our children to nurture their hearts with goodness because they have a lifetime ahead of them full of resisting evil and temptation. They will stand up against it, perhaps the most firmly, if we have taught them to fix their eyes on Jesus and His goodness.
We will do this despite the norm. We will raise them in the way they should go despite what our culture says is acceptable. We will teach them to fix their eyes on Jesus even when that means turning a blind eye on the glittery productions and parades in Hollywood. We will raise followers of Jesus Christ, not followers of peers. We will be parents. We have been entrusted with these hearts.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~Phillipians 4:8
We will guard their hearts, for everything they do will flow from those hearts. May their hearts honor Him always.
Sharing with you in this journey, ~Courtney