On the outside, it was a fairly idyllic childhood.
Seventeen acres in the middle of the woods, our three bedroom double wide trailer plopped on a manmade knoll on the hill. A large garden, swings and a playhouse my dad built himself, trees to climb on, forests to explore, a million white cloth diapers swinging in the wind. There were six of us by then, all girls. I remember being outside a lot in the summer; reading on my bed in the winter as wind and snow swirled around us(it being upstate New York, after all). Idyllic? To everyone who didn't live there, sure.
But paradise, by its very nature, doesn't really exist.
The truth is, I have no intention of talking much about my childhood on this blog. We were borderline patriarchal, I suppose. Lots of kids. Homeschooled. My mom subscribed to all the "right" magazines, they flirted with family integrated church, we didn't have a whole lot of socialization in my younger years. They had a lot of friends in ATI, though my parents never bought into all that Gothard said. Looking back I can see some of the influences--they thought all rock music, even Christian rock, was satanic for a while, though they gave that up at some point. They were influenced by a lot of people, a lot of good friends, who, looking back, were terribly, terribly afraid of the outside world.
(By the way, I also have no intention of judging my parents, especially my mother. I love being a mother and a wife, but I have no idea if I would still be a good mother if I had six children eleven years old and under, being a stay-at-home-mom in a cramped trailer in the middle of nowhere with very little money and a husband who worked long hours. I suspect the stress would get to me, and my children would not remember me as a very happy person or as a decent mother. Fortunately, this is not a scenario I see happening.)
But I bring this all up today because, looking back, I see how terribly influenced my parents were by the magazines they read, the friends they had, the choices those friends make. And the root cause of all of those choices was fear. Fear of the big, bad world outside. Fear of corrupting influences. Fear of public school, of pantyhose on little girls instead of thick white tights, fear of the slippery slope that Christian rock or age-segregated Sunday School might bring. Who knows what your children might be taught by dedicated Sunday School teachers, or worse, what the public schooled children--who are not as innocent as your kids, most assuredly--might whisper to them? The best way to avoid this is to have family Sunday school, where the parents and all their kids, regardless of age, learn together. Or better yet, just skip Sunday School altogether, after all, it's never mentioned in the Bible. As fear took a deeper hold, the movement towards homechurching started...just stay home! Dad is the priest of the home; he can teach his wife and children all about God. Who needs church? Who needs ministers? Who needs the corrupting influences those worldly(meaning: anyone who is not like us) Christians in church bring? Stay home! Stay safe!
I saw so many families get strangled by fear. Keeping their children by their side all the time. Rarely leaving home. Associating only with those who believed exactly the same way. Afraid of...afraid of everything.
But Christianity has never, ever been about safety.
And they skipped over 1 John 4 completely, where the apostle teaches that Christians have nothing to fear from the world. That "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
They missed that. Instead, fear crept in. Wrapped its long tentacles around their lives, choking them, while all the time they thought they were living the only Godly lifestyle. Meanwhile, their kids saw it for what it was, and walked away.
Because they were afraid of...of what?
Of the outside world. Of the unknown. Of not being able to control their children's every action, thought, choice. Of the fear that their children might, possibly, make a wrong choice. And instead of teaching their children about making good decisions and giving them many opportunities to practice, they never let their children make choices at all.
Fear is a destroyer. It destroys lives and families.
We are not called to be safe. We do not need to be afraid of the world out there. Parts of it are scary, yes, and bad things happen. I know this; I'm not naive. But I make the choice, every day, to step out of my house, my son by my side, and face the good and the bad and the ugly.
We need to teach our children right and wrong, good choices and bad choices, and then step back, hard as it is, and let them fly.