Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Little Family Wisdom

My kids may as well have been born in a different century, or so it seems sometimes. We're in a church with lots of children, and consequently my kids are perceiving more and more how other kids' lives are different from theirs.

Basically, when you take away all disposable income (money to entertain oneself outside the home or the park) and take away video- and electronic-games and Internet phones, what you have is an existence for kids that mirrors more what it was like in the mid to late twentieth century. That is, kids who entertained themselves with the natural environment (creeks, ponds, fields, backyards), and with bats and balls, paper, crayons, pencils and paints, with yarn, sewing, and dolls, and most importantly, with their own family, and neighbor kids.

When my kids (even my youngest) go to church and hear about this or that family who went here or there, and ate at this or that restaurant, or who played this or that electronic game, they feel left out and weird. So they mention it to me and I empathize with them, telling them it is hard to be different.

But then we discuss what they heard and compare it to the life God calls us to in the Bible. He calls us to lead an other-focused life, not a me-focused life. All the things they heard are usually me-focused activities, rather than other-focused activities, and so our little talk helps them see that they're really not worse off, even if they appear weird.

I also remind them that people in wealthy countries often spend the first half of their lives indulging themselves. Then, when they're older and learn that a me-focused life is not what God wants for them, they have a hard time finding a balance. They feel deprived if they start to spend less on themselves. It's a difficult transition.

It's good, I remind my kids, to know what to do with yourself without money to help you. It's a great skill and one that will help them all their lives. They have to use their imaginations, and they have to learn to work cooperatively with others to make the most of the resources available. And they have to invent new things to do, rather than rely on something already invented.

They're learning that God gave us much to entertain and soothe ourselves in the natural world, which He created for our good pleasure. The natural world is a gift. It's like God's love letter to us.

Lastly, my kids, as less distracted young people, are learning that entertainment isn't supposed to be our only concern. People all over the world have needs, and we're supposed to be thinking about that, more than about our next entertainment fix. I share with them this verse:

1 Corinthians 10:23 "I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"--but not everything is constructive.

The more choices we have available to us outside of our working/school hours, the more we have to discern what is good and pleasing to the Lord. We already know that work is good and pleasing to the Lord, and that idleness (not having an occupation of some sort) is sin. We already know that God calls us also to rest.

If during our discretionary time we have more permissible things on our list than constructive things, we're imbalanced.

Don't feel sorry for your kids if you can't give them what most kids have or experience. Rarely are the things that come from money the best things (unless you're talking clean water, sanitation, and a non-leaking roof).

Actually, if your Christian kids fit it with typical kids, you might be missing something about not being in the world. Christian kids should be different. Rough around the edges because they're still kids, after all, but different, nonetheless. (My kids have huge flaws, believe me.)

Another difference my kids feel keenly is their perception of family. They're often dismayed at what kids say about their siblings, or even about their parents.

Case in point: Last Friday some new neighbors came over and when Peter told the sister of the pair (she was about 9 years old) that he had three siblings, she responded sarcastically, "Oh, I feel sorry for you."

When your best earthly asset is your family, you can't relate to these sentiments. Peter told her--as he often does to other kids who express similar sentiments--that he is grateful for his siblings. As my oldest, Peter is learning to stand up for his values without care for the backlash.

Family has gone out of style, sadly. Families may sleep under the same roof, but because they disperse here and there during the day and evenings, that's about all they have in common--their roof for sleeping under. They don't even necessarily eat there, or at least not often together.

If I ever wanted to write a book, it would be about bringing back the family. If you have a close-knit nuclear family, you're rich. And if you have the Lord in conjunction with family, you have all the best this universe has to offer--a foundation that will never fail you...sources of joy that will never go out of style.

Thank the Lord we always have these two things to give to our children, no matter our circumstances.


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