Not that long ago I said in a blog post that I asked my teen if he needed me to help him buy condoms. Of course the expected comments appeared- aren't you afraid to give the impression that you are giving permission for that kind of behavior? Let's see...
Am I afraid of giving my kids permission to fail? No, failure is one of our teachers.
Am I afraid to give my kids permission to believe in Grace? No, grace is necessary for faith.
Am I afraid of giving my kids permission not to feel the need to rebel in that area? Yes, I plan for kids to rebel, just like Adam and all his kin.
What I *am* afraid of is kids that don't think. Kids that do think you aren't paying attention. Kids who hate that you aren't paying attention and are bitter. I am afraid of kids who are hesitant to talk to me. I am afraid that my kids could have learned a false gospel, and it's MY FAULT. A false gospel that tells them they have to be afraid to talk to me about failing because then I would not accept them. That they have to keep their lives clean to be acceptable. That they have to worry whether I'm paying attention and whether I'll accept them.
When asking my child if he needs me to help him buy condoms and talking about what he thinks about having sex, I'm opening a lighthearted but heavy dialogue. I'm saying "I acknowledge that you are growing up and part of you is sexual. I want you in turn to acknowledge that there are big things that can happen. I want you to listen to me, and trust me on this. If you have not taken time to think through and decide WHO you are going to be, you could experience pain- and your mama doesn't want to see you suffer. Are you going to be a kid who just lets the moment and the hormones happen? Or are you going to be a kid who has a plan, to take a stand? Are you going to come to me and talk through these things? Are you going to remember what you've been taught about modesty, purity, sexuality, and love? Do you know that I'll love you and I'm on your team, whatever you do, because you're my son and I love you?"
Telling my son I will love him even when he sins does not erase all the years of preaching abstinence - and it certainly is not erasing the gospel. IT IS THE GOSPEL. You are at heart a human who will make mistakes, who will sin against God and others, who will fail. But God knew you would, and he still chose to love you and give his son for you and call you his own. Good behavior looks nice and all, but I'm sticking with that gospel of grace- you will fail, in your life, but God knew it and still loves you. You don't need to spend years rebelling against a false gospel. "Good Christian Kids" rebel because they know that it's hypocritical.
A child's heart begins innocent (they aren't so far removed from heaven after all). Now don't get me wrong-- I've heard all the sermons with the proof texts that teach that all humans are born with a sin nature. I've heard all the anecdotes that kids are mean from early on. I'm not talking about that kind of innocence. I'm talking about a naiveté- the part in the child that leads to the teaching that kids' damnation is subject to a subjective "age of accountability." That thing about kids that Jesus meant when he said "Let the little children come to me" and "the Kingdom is made up of these." Kids are uniquely sensitive to Jesus' voice. Their hearts aren't hardened by years of rebellion... yet. Parents create rebels. We don't have to teach them to hit, bike kick and scream, or even to lie and cheat. But that's not what truly makes a rebel.
When we continually teach children a false gospel by our rules and punishments for broken rules- that they are only acceptable based on how good and pure and clean they can appear-- we made them rebel. They know in their hearts that it's not a true gospel. We parents sow seeds of bitterness in their hearts because we are demanding more of them than even God himself demands of us! They know that they should be accepted for who they are, just because they are a beloved son or daughter. So they are discouraged, they are embittered, and they rebel.
A true gospel says, Child, you are mine, and I love you. You will fail, and I will love you anyway. I will walk beside you, and pick you up and even carry you if you grow weary. I will help you reach what you cannot grasp on your own. I will help you when life is too hard. You cannot do this on your own, but together we can move mountains.
When my child has this faith in the true gospel that Jesus loves them and is there, then my child can live in freedom to walk in the light. To love because he is loved. To accept the comfort of knowing - someone has my back, I don't walk alone, and I can do all things. And because of this, I feel I can dialogue with my son about sex. "You are growing into a man, a good looking guy who appreciates young ladies. I hear your music, I see your movies, and I have watched you, and I believe I know your heart. I see you love Jesus and want to be like Him. I know it because despite all the little things you do that annoy or disinterest or inconvenience me- your trajectory is towards being like Christ.
"I will be here to help you walk through temptations- can I help you with anything? Can I keep you safe from sin? Can I keep you coddled and encased in an artificial womb forever? Or can I buy condoms? A token reminder that sex is real and it has real hurt if it's not something you prayerfully give consideration to every, single, day."
I can ask for a pledge of purity- I can offer a purity ring. I can also acknowledge that maybe my teen will have a different path. But I love my son, "I forgive you and I will still walk through it with you." Besides, the truth is, now that I had this conversation with my teen, it's all ruined for him. The visual imprinted upon his memory of his MOTHER holding a box of rubbers serves to defuse the hottest moments, n'est-ce pas? .....and my hope is that my smiling insistence that I, and Jesus, will always be there for him, reminds him of where his roots are.
Hormones have a way of inducing impulsiveness- so I want kids who talk to me, who think through the ramifications and consequences, physically and spiritually, of sexual behaviors. Who trust that I love them. Who trust that Jesus loves them. And therefore, he is firm in his roots and tends not to need to rebel. I was reading Let's Talk About Sex in Reader's Digest, which is four pages of solid ideas, and this quote popped out at me:
In the end, no matter how much they fidget or roll their eyes, teens want to know someone will find them even when they become hard to reach.
Do you have your child's heart? Does he trust you, to talk to you? Can you be real with your teen about sin, sex, and saving grace? What makes you afraid to be real with your teens? Do you believe the gospel for your own life?