By Ruth Meyer
Sometimes I’m ashamed to be an adult. Adults, for all our “wisdom” and higher education, are incredibly ignorant at times. We legalize things that are blatantly wrong, we fail to stand up for our beliefs, and we tell our kids to look the other way when we are confronted with people whose lifestyle and morals don’t agree with our own. And then there’s this year’s presidential election. Even my children knew that both of the two major candidates were poor choices at best. This was the best our country could do? It hurts to admit it, but at times, children are far smarter than adults.
The fact is that many children see things in black and white. Either something is right or it’s wrong. Unfortunately, the world is slightly more complicated. There are a lot of grey areas. But the black-and-white approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As we get older and supposedly more educated, we’re taught to practice tolerance and acceptance. Now, I’m all for an open mind, but not if it means I have to compromise my own values or beliefs as a result.
How am I supposed to answer my 12-year-old when he says, “So let me get this straight. One of our presidential candidates was involved in an FBI investigation, and the other one can say whatever he wants with no consequences? Mom, if I said that kind of stuff, you’d ground me for life.” That’s for sure, and he doesn’t even know the half of the offensive comments.
Or how am I to explain to my 10-year-old why our country now says same-sex marriages are okay? “Why would a man marry a man, anyhow? That’s not how it works.” Exactly. A 10-year-old sees what adults don't or won’t admit.
How should I have a conversation with my boys when they worry about playing sports in middle school and high school because they’re concerned about transgender bathrooms? “How does that work, Mom? You’re either a boy or a girl. That’s just how God made you. Why should we have to change clothes in front of a girl?” I haven’t the faintest. I wonder the same thing myself.
How can I explain the subtleties of racism to my second-grader? “Mom, how come I can’t say that Janie is black? She is black. I’m white. How come I’m not supposed to say so?” Indeed.
But by far, the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with any of my children was the day my oldest found out about abortion. He was in pre-kindergarten at the time, and it was another election year, so the school was having a mock election. One of the students, who happened to be the youngest child of four, had obviously heard a lot about the candidates from his parents and older siblings. He told the class not to vote for “Candidate X” because he wanted to kill babies. The teacher immediately changed the subject, but the damage had been done. My son came home in tears. I was pregnant at the time, and he was convinced that if this candidate was elected, he would kill our baby. I ask you, how can you “gently” explain abortion to a child of any age? I didn’t go into gory details, but I explained enough that he knew it was wrong. I’ve never been so ashamed to be an adult as I was when he asked, “But why would anyone do that? How can anyone think that’s okay? It’s just wrong.”
The truth is that we live in a sinful world. We may try to shield our children from that cold, hard fact, but sooner or later, they will find out about things like abortion, homosexuality, transgender issues, and more. When they do, how are we to respond?
First of all, be honest. Don’t lie to them or try to change the subject, because then they may turn elsewhere for answers. They need to know that you’ll give them an honest answer. Certainly, it must be age-appropriate, but truthful nonetheless. They must know they can trust you.
Second, explain it from God’s perspective, rather than the current worldview on the matter. Does God say abortion is a woman’s choice? Does He allow homosexuality? Let your children’s questions be a springboard for discussing what God’s Word tells us about the issues.
Last, always emphasize God’s mercy and grace for everyone--you and your children included. Yes, abortion is sinful, but God can and does forgive women who have had abortions in their past. True, the homosexual lifestyle is wrong, but Jesus died to pay for that wrong as well. And just because I personally don’t struggle with these hot-button issues, I have other sins I grapple with that are no less serious in nature. All humans, no matter what their pet sins, have fallen short of God’s demands. All of us need His mercy. And His grace is there for all of us. Jesus died for every sin--murder, sexual sins, racism, greed, covetousness, theft, gossip, falsehood--everything. There’s no sin too big for Him to forgive.
We can’t stop our children from growing up and discovering that the world is not only full of grey areas, but also full of outright rebellion against God’s truth. What we can do is give them a solid, Christ-centered foundation with God’s help. Someday, our children will be adults, perhaps raising a family of their own, explaining these issues to their own kids. They’ll be voting in primaries and elections, making their voices be heard on hot-button issues, and shaping the country for future generations. And who knows? Maybe one day, one of them will even be running for President.
Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife. Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations. Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing. She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody. She also loves to write, and her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z ,was recently published through CPH. Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net. Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.