WARNING: IT'S A LOOOOONG ONE!!
Continuing the thoughts about role models, I began to think about who would be the best role models, and why. The first thing that came to my mind was, certainly, the heroes of the Bible.
Well...here's what I came up with...
David - a "man after God's own heart"; worshiper extraordinaire; adulterer, murderer (albeit indirectly), terrible fathering skills - OK, maybe not so much.
Esther - "lovely in form and feature"; brave; heroic - but there was that little part about a one-night stand that gets so awfully hard to explain...
Paul - apostle; writer of much of the New Testament; suffered for the gospel - (shhhh...just don't bring up the part where he "intensely persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it")
Ruth - faithful; loyal; family-oriented; hard worker; presented herself in a rather questionable way to her boss (even though it worked out well in the end...)...uh, yeah...
Hmmm... even the heroes of the Bible had their flaws, or at the very least 'questionable behaviors'...and pretty big ones at that! Yes, certainly we can and do hold them up now as examples for us, but we have the advantage of looking back at what God did in and through them. I absolutely believe their stories are recorded in scripture for us to look at and learn from. But how about those around them as they were living out what is now for us a completed 'story'? I can just imagine how those uppity moms in Israel could have, as they heard tell of King David's exploits, fretted about "what he's teaching our young boys today about what it means to be a man...and a king at that! Oi, vey!"
Don't misunderstand...I am not trying to devalue scripture in any way. I am trying to point out that the men and women whose stories we find there were real people. My point is that none of us are perfect, and if parents are looking for role models for their kids, that's something to keep in mind. However, there in lies another perfect teaching opportunity. We can (and should!) come alongside our kids and offer them counsel as they look for people to admire...and explain and walk them through it when those same people let them down in some way. We can talk about how everyone is a 'work in progress' and pray together for the person. It's an opportunity to help them learn to respond rightly when they are disappointed by someone, and to understand that everyone is imperfect, as are they, and deserving the same mercy that they hope for when they miss the mark in some way.
We need to be careful not put on any person, the sole responsibility for how their behavior impacts our kids. If my parents (or my pastor, my mentor, my friend, my boss) messed up - I am still responsible before God for what I do with it. From my experience, that's a tough one for us adults, and so the sooner we can help our children understand this, the better they will be served throughout life. It's my job to teach my kids that no matter what anyone else does around them or to them, they alone are answerable to God for how they choose to respond. It's my job, not to just shield and protect them, but to walk them, hand-in-hand, in becoming aware of the world around them and how to respond to it.
Allowing them to see things that are good as well as things that are 'bad', is difficult and requires wisdom on my part to know when and how to instruct them in those situations. (I'm not talking about allowing them to see inappropriate shows or movies and such; I mean more like exposing them to 'real life' situations or people that I know are not living in the ways that our own family does). I can try to shelter them from ever seeing sin, but I will also prevent them from ever experiencing God's broken heart for the lost. This thing that we are called to -"living in the world, but not of it" - is an extremely delicate balance. We cannot afford to swing one way, nor the other. If we are too "of" the world, we are not living lives that glorify our God. However, if we try to live completely sterile lives, not "in" the real world, and we cannot be effectively carrying the gospel to those who need it most.
I've struggled much myself to break out of the 'Christian bubble' which I grew up in. Certainly not that my parents did anything 'wrong' in this, but all of our family and friends were Christians, and I had very little exposure to non-Christians, even though I spent 6 years in public school. (I sort of had the mindset that I wasn't really supposed to associate too closely with unbelievers, so I always sought out those that at least seemed to have some 'religious' affiliation and seemingly held the same values as myself). I don't think this was necessarily wrong, but I also felt like the verse "bad company corrupts good character" was probably overemphasized in my mind to the point that I really spent more effort to avoid non-Christians than to reach out to them. I don't want my kids to have these same hang-ups that I did; I want to cultivate in them a passion for Jesus and a burning desire to see others come to know his life-changing power in their lives as well. I don't think the best way to accomplish this is to shelter them from the world, or anything that doesn't 'line up' with what we believe.
On the flip side, I do find it of great importance for me to be the main 'guiding force' in walking them through this maze of life (obviously speaking of during their growing up years). This is part of why I value the opportunity to homeschool. It's also why I'm looking forward to using public school curriculums, but being able to teach it myself. While they will gain an understanding of what the world is learning about various topics, I will be able to address why we disagree with some things, and what the truth is instead. We will be able to discuss how we can try to help people to see different viewpoints, while still loving them as people, and striving to see them the way God does.
Keep in mind, I'm certainly not saying I've 'arrived' in any of these areas. I'm sure I make wrong decisions often and am too permissive at some times and too protective at others. But I'm trying to remain aware, and weigh my decisions about what is acceptable for our family through an outward focused lens, rather one zeroed in on ourselves. It's an interesting line to walk.
Well, I guess that's quite a book I've written...so I'll climb back down off my soapbox for now. If you've made it this far, I'd love to hear your feedback!!