Sunday, January 10, 2016

Serious Advice 14-15: Protecting Our Children, Spiritual Warfare

            #14  Remember that your children are counting on you to look out for their welfare.  Do not put them in risky situations, either deliberately or by neglecting to find out what’s going on. 
            I remember as a pre-teen that it was time for me to go in for my physical.  And as we sat in the waiting room, my mom told me, “Now, Heather, this doctor is known for being a bit of a pervert.  If he asks you to take off your clothes, tell him your mom said not to.” 
            And then . . . she sent me in there alone. 

            I was terrified the whole time and I felt like she was basically throwing me to the wolves.  If she knew that he was inappropriate, why not find another doctor?  Why not insist on going in with me?  As it turned out, he did ask me to take off my shirt and bra so he could listen to my heartbeat.  I said no.  But somehow, he got me to just take off my shirt.  And while he took my heartbeat, he stared at my basically non-existent boobs.  I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t believe that a mom would not look out for a daughter’s welfare better than that. 

            Unfortunately, we also need to be careful with people in our own neighborhoods nowadays, too.  We don’t live in the “good old days” when kids were able to roam the neighborhood unattended.  Back then, neighbors knew and looked out for each other.  But nowadays, we are all too busy with our own lives to care about anyone else’s family. 
            Don’t take chances with your kids’ safety.  As long as you’re going to make conscientious decisions about what is in your house, be just as diligent about learning who your kids’ friends are and where they are going and what they are doing on-line.  (1 Corinthians 15: 33:  “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’“)  And while we don’t mean to do it, it may end up offending or hurting others at times.  But be gentle and firm.  Your children depend on you to look out for their safety.
            Can I ask this?  Why is it that children are being taught that their social, on-line world is so important that they should be given complete freedom from parental supervision and given the right to network socially all day long?  Back in the day, kids had to talk on the family telephone where parents could hear what was being said.  And they had to use the family computer that was in full view of everyone else.  And when they weren’t doing these things, they were living a life unplugged. 
            But now, they have their own little world in the palm of their hands, with no sense of restraint or accountability to anyone.  And kids are being bullied and putting/viewing things on-line that are so harmful to them.  But we don’t know it because we “wouldn’t want to invade their privacy or comment on their friends.  It’s their life.”
            Is this really the message that children should be receiving?  That their “social world” is of upmost importance and is far above any scrutinizing or accountability?  No wonder children are growing up with severe narcissism and ego-centrism, and a complete lack of work ethic and respect for authority.  (Can you tell that I feel strongly about this one!) 
            On a different note, too many times I’ve heard of people who let their kids go off to someone’s house without knowing the family or friends.  Or they let them roam around the neighborhood unattended, meeting who-knows and doing who-knows-what.  Maybe I’m too cautious or old-fashioned.  I don’t know!  But I’m always surprised to see this. 
            One day, my boys made a nice, new friend in the neighborhood.   His family was staying with his grandparents down the street from us for a little while.  He didn’t know anyone, so he asked if he could play with my boys at our house.  We said it was fine, and he ran back down the street to ask his dad.  I expected his dad to come down and meet us and see who we were, since we were strangers to them.  So I stepped out onto the sidewalk, looked down the street, and I saw his dad walk out of their house.  He looked down the street at me, waved, and went back into his house, as his kid ran to ours. 
            That felt a little odd to me.  For all he knew, we could have pornography all over the place, watch R-rated movies when the kids are around, or scream and yell and curse at each other in front of or at the kids.  We could be feeding his kid any number of things, or we could let our kids have access to beer or guns.  (Wow!  I am quite the catastrophizer, aren’t I?)  NONE of this is true in our house, of course.  But his dad didn’t know that.    
            On his next visit to our house, this little boy asked if my boys could come to his house and play.  He had a secret fort that he wanted to show them.  His dad may not have minded letting him go to a stranger’s house, but I am not comfortable with that.  I wrestled, though, with being afraid of offending them.  After all, they let their kid come to our house to play.  Was it too snobby for me not to trust them with my kids?
            My husband considered letting them go because he felt too bad saying “no.”  But I just couldn’t do it.  I explained it this way to Jason, “In all likelihood, they are fine people.  But we don’t know what goes on in their house.  We don’t know what’s in this secret fort of his.  Maybe there’s pornography or maybe he hides there because his parents are abusive.  What if they fight while he is around or curse a lot?  What if they talk about things we don’t want our kids to hear?  If his dad didn’t mind sending his kid off to some stranger’s house, and he wasn’t concerned with what goes on here, it makes me wonder what kinds of things they don’t mind letting their son be around at his house.  It doesn’t mean he’s a bad parent, but I’m not taking chances with my children.  They can play here.” 
            I, too, felt bad about saying “no” and about offending them.  But my job is to raise my children to the best of my ability and to use wisdom in caring for them, not to be too concerned that I might offend someone else.  (Trust me, there will always be someone who will be offended, and we’ll exhaust ourselves trying to appease everyone.) 
            I think it was easier for me to say “no” and to be more (too?) cautious because of an experience that I had once as a pre-teen.  I had a good friend at school - my best friend, actually.  But neither I nor my mom knew her family well.  One day, I was invited over for a birthday sleepover.  I was the only one invited and it was my first time at her house.  This was going to be a great time and I was excited! 
            When I got there, her father was in the darkened living room watching a horror movie, Hell-raiser.  I hate horror movies.  Hate them!!!!  And I hated having to be anywhere near where one was playing.  So my friend and I played in the kitchen.  After a few minutes, her father called me into the room with him and asked me to sit on his lap.  I was not a very assertive child.  I could not stand up to adults at all, so I did what he asked.  I don’t have to tell you how uncomfortable and embarrassed I was! 
            My friend, her mother, and her sister stayed in the kitchen, looking like they were keeping busy.  But I could see their anxious, knowing glances in my direction.  Even as a child, I could tell that they knew what was going on and that there were family secrets hidden in their dark rooms.  (Sometime later, we found out that this creepy man did abuse his girls.) 
            I sat there on his lap for a few minutes (I had never even met him before) watching Hell-raiser, before I managed to excuse myself.  And I sheepishly made my way to the kitchen.  I was mortified and I felt violated!  This didn’t make the sleepover go very well for me.  I had a hard time falling asleep, for fear of what I may awaken to.  I laid there all night listening for footsteps.  I felt so vulnerable!  Morning-time and going home were the highlights of my visit.  Thank God that nothing more happened! 
            Be aware of who your children hang out with and, if you do not know the family well, don’t be embarrassed to insist that the kids get together at your house, to seek information of what will go on at their house, or to invite them over to get to know the family first.  People with nothing to hide should not be offended by this.  And if there is anything that gives you pause about another person or family, consider that it may be the Holy Spirit giving you discernment.   
            And give your kids an “out.”  If they are ever too uncomfortable at someone else’s house, tell them to call home.  And then give them a reason to come home that would not embarrass them, such as, “Something came up here at home and I need to pick up my kid.”  And something did come up – your child needed you to intervene for them.  And that’s as good of a reason as any.  I have spent several sleepovers balled up in the corner of a room, trying very hard to plug my ears and close my eyes because they were watching unexpected horror movies.  I only wished I had been thoughtful enough to call home and ask to get picked up.   
            #15  Speaking of sleep-overs . . . Now, we all know the importance of discussing drugs, smoking, alcohol, and sex with our kids.  So I won’t expound on those points.  But can I throw another one out there for you to consider discussing with your kids?  (And I’m going to sound really “out there” to a lot of you, I’m sure.  But here goes . . .)  Those seemingly innocent sleepover games!  You know the ones I’m talking about: “I believe in Bloody Mary,” séances, tarot cards, Ouija boards, horoscopes, etc.  Harmless fun, Right?  Nothing comes from it but a good laugh and a little, fun scaring, right?  Or is there more? 
            Numerous times in the Old Testament, we are told that God abhors sorcery and contacting the dead.  (Such as Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10-13, and Isaiah 8:19).  Basically, God tells us not to mess with the spirits.  They are very real and very active in this world.  How is it that even Christians, who know and believe the Bible, act as though that part of life is mythical?  Most of the time, we go about life unaware of the spiritual battles and forces that rage around us. 
            And we don’t bother to seriously evaluate the supernatural games that we play, the books and movies on witchcraft or immorality that we watch, and the ungodly things that we set our minds on.  But all of these things are doors through which the spirit world can affect us.  And sometimes, things happen to remind us that there is more out there, and that we need to be cautious about tinkering with it, even in the name of innocent fun.
            I’m sure that there will be scoffers and doubters, but let me assure you that I was there and this really did happen.  And I am sure that there are plenty of you out there with your own stories, so you will understand.  When I was about eleven or twelve or so, I was at my step-dad’s house for the weekend.  We were bored and just wanted something to do.  So his new step-daughter, my brother, and I decided to play the classic game, Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.  Silly stuff ?!? 
            We had my brother (around seven or eight years old at the time) lay down on the floor, while me and my younger “step-sister” took a position on either side of him.  We both slid two fingers from each hand under him.  Then we closed our eyes and began to chant:  “Light as a feather, stiff as a board; light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over again for a few minutes.  And then we tried to raise him.  Nothing!  Heavy as a rock and completely unable to lift him a smidgen. 
            I, being the smart older one, concluded that we didn’t chant long enough.  “Let’s try it longer,” I said.  And so we closed our eyes and began again: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board; light as a feather, stiff as a board.”  We said this over and over and over again.  We said it for so long that we kind-of zoned out.  It was a trance-like state where we lost track of time and sense of our surroundings.  After I-don’t-know-how-long, we decided that it had been long enough and we tried to lift him again. 
            This time, I kid you not, he was light as a feather and stiff as a board.  We were able to raise him up with only two fingers on each hand, eight fingers total between the two of us.  We stood up and lifted him to chest level with absolutely no effort.  Meanwhile, he was as stiff and as still as could be, eyes closed and unconscious, completely unaware of anything around him. 
            We, being two adolescent girls, giggled and ooohed and ahhed.  “Oh, look.  It works!  Cool!  Let’s take him out of the room and show Dad.”  We began to walk him to the door and said, “Sean, do not open your eyes!  We are taking you out to show Dad.”  But as soon as his head crossed over the threshold by the door, he shook awake with a “Huh” and immediately regained all of his weight and crashed to the floor. 
            We laughed and ran to tell our dad how it really worked.  I don’t remember his response, but I’m sure it was like, “That’s nice!  Great imagination, you guys.  Now run along!”  And we ran off and found other things to do, forgetting about this supernatural encounter and completely unaware of what really happened.  
            What I didn’t realize, though, was that we were inviting the spirit world to come to us.  We were calling on their help.  And the second time around, we must have given them enough time to do it.  And I doubt, of course, that these were godly spirits.  Godly spirits don’t play these kinds of games.  It’s evil spirits, in the hopes of drawing you in more.  These innocent games can oftentimes lead to dark paths. 
            As an adult looking back now, I am always surprised at how this really worked.  And yet, I’m not surprised because I do, after all, believe the Bible when it says that there is an unseen, supernatural world around us.  I guess I am just surprised at how two completely innocent, naive, adolescent girls could unknowingly call on the spirit world, thinking it was just a game, and actually get a powerful response. 
            I also thank God that He did not allow the spirits access to me after I invited them into the room.  I think it’s because I had just previously accepted the Lord.  I have since read about how some people unknowingly open themselves up to spirit-control or oppression through these seemingly innocent games.  Ones you might find at any sleepover. 
            My point in sharing this story is to not weird you out or to come across as crazy (and I’m sure I’ve just done both), but to remind parents of their responsibility to teach their children to stay away from these kinds of occultic or New-Age things, as well as immoral things.  Do not take lightly (or allow into your house) books, movies, games, and practices that celebrate and encourage what God is opposed to: immoral things, occultic things, and things that mock God.  These are things that Satan uses to further his kingdom.  And yet, we lay down so easily and willingly, and we let them in because, well, it’s all harmless fun and it doesn’t really affect me anyway!  Right!?! 
            These kinds of things are not just innocent books and movies and games; they can hook children into deeper stuff or allow a spirit access to your child and your home.  And at the very least, they draw our minds off of godly things and fill them with things that Satan celebrates and encourages.   
            I’m not an expert when it comes to the workings of the spiritual realm, but it’s just what I understand about it.  (For more of my experience with the unseen, go to the post "Supernatural Stuff and the Armor of God.")  And I haven’t yet talked to my kids about my experience as a pre-teen.  I’m not even sure how a conversation like that would go.  But the day will come when I will share this with them. 
            I guess, right now, I am torn between scaring them before they can understand it, piquing their interest in it instead of relating the seriousness of it, and knowing when they are ready to handle the knowledge that there is an active, unseen world out there.  But, you know, when I think about it, there is probably ample opportunity to talk about this kind of stuff with our kids if we just pay attention to the shows and movies that our kids are watching nowadays.  So many teachable moments out there because there is so much that is offensive to God out there.
            (Update: I have recently told my kids about it, in a very matter-of-fact, non-sensationalized way, simply reminding them that the spirit world is real and they are not to mess with it.  I did this because so many movies and shows glorify witchcraft, and I want them to know the seriousness of messing around with this stuff and that it's not just fun "make-believe."  And one of my kids had an odd experience last year.  My then-seven-year-old came upstairs to find me and he told me that he just saw me downstairs.  He said he was running past the kitchen and he saw me standing there, staring blankly at him, holding a wooden spoon.  But, of course, I was upstairs.  I asked him if he was running past and thought he saw me out of the corner of his eye.  But he said that he actually stopped for a few seconds and stared at me, staring at him.  Creepy!  So I decided it was time to teach them this phrase, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave."  I think this is such an important, real spiritual lesson that we need to teach, but we so rarely do.  We so rarely take the spirit world seriously and equip our kids to battle in it.)
            I truly believe that it’s a parent’s job to educate their children about this reality, without over-dramatizing it.  After all, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [evil spirits], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4)