Teaching Children To Live in the Real World

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Life is filled with a multitude of experiences and our lives are filled with various responses to these experiences: joy and sorrow, laughter and weeping, fear and boldness. The experiences in all of our lives weaves a variegated tapestry that, like looking at a real tapestry, if seen from the wrong perspective, looks like a tangled mess of thread, uneven, chaotic, and without any order. Looking from the front of the tapestry one realizes there was a Weaver, who through planning and with purpose, wove a beautiful picture in our life, with a variation of color, that produces a beautiful picture.

Over my many years of being a classroom teacher and administrator in Christian schools, I have often heard parents explain that the reason they want their children to attend the anti-christian government-controlled schools is that they will be exposed to “the real world.”

Imagine that you are sprouting seeds for your flower bed or vegetable garden. You begin in early February planting and germinating the tiny, tender seeds so that by April you can transfer them to the appropriate bed. If you were to transplant the seedlings, before they were ready or the conditions were right, they would likely die. I have often been told that a parent wants his/her child to be “a missionary” in the government schools. I have an offer for you. I have a friend, born and raised (and still living) in South Africa. Would you let me send your child to be “a missionary” to traverse South and Central Africa with my friend as he and his team as the trek in and out of war zones delivering medical supplies, food and Bibles? You wouldn’t? Why not? Well, your young child isn’t ready! The gardening metaphor says you leave the seedlings in the greenhouse, and “harden them off” BEFORE you put them in the garden bed. You want to give the seedlings every advantage you can so they will live and thrive in the difficult environment of life.

Such is the case with young children. We take the time necessary to prepare them for “the real world” so when the time comes for the child to accept their place, in the hard world of adulthood, we have given them every advantage we can, preparing them in every way we can, for all of the experiences of life we can. Thrusting children into a morally bankrupt and fake environment, like government controlled schools, inclines them to see life through the poisoned glasses of an aberrant worldview that does not reflect reality.

I have a picture just outside my office of one of our grandsons at the bottom of a long, long set of stairs when they moved to the island of Okinawa. In the picture he is only about one year-old and could have never made it crawling up the stairs that probably rose up, step-by-step, for about fifty yards. I framed the picture because it provided for me a poignant picture of child training. In reality we are preparing our children to face ALL of the difficulties in life we have faced and perhaps some we have not personally experienced. Life is hard, often joyful, but hard.

The biblical worldview teaches that we live in a broken world and we are a people broken people because of humanity’s fall into sin. Because of that brokenness, trial and afflictions are inescapable. Trials are often a long seemingly unending series of unexpected challenges, hardships, and painful experiences (1 These 3:2-3). “Rose-colored glasses” will not equip us or our children for the realities of life’s difficulties and hardship. We need to have, and give to our children clear, clean lenses through which we and they can view the realities of life, especially the hardship that will inescapably come.

Children need to be taught that there are many life problems to solve and must be given the intellectual and moral habits to know how to solve them. The children must be taught that there is wisdom to gain. We must acknowledge that our children can only be helped by those adults in their lives who themselves are seeking wisdom in order to impart it. There are painful afflictions to endure and we are called to often walk with others as they walk thorough them and endure them. There is correction, reproofs, and instruction to receive. But these corrections, reproofs, and instruction must come from adults who are themselves willingly seeking to be corrected, reproved, and instructed themselves, so as to demonstrate what wisdom and humility looks like.

Trials and afflictions are not pleasurable. They are often exceedingly painful and often, for a long time. We can’t change the unchangeable, the onset of trials and afflictions, but we can show and teach our children how to think about them, respond to them, and walk in and through them. Trials and afflictions can be painfully profitable, in terms of building character and faith in the God who ordains and oversees all of life’s trials and afflictions. But we cannot teach what we do not know. If we do not embrace faith in God’s sovereignty, self consciously, willingly, thankfully, and openly, even in the time of trials and afflictions we cannot teach our children to prepare for the hardship that will come in their lives.

For some people the trials and afflictions of life may begin early in their lives and persist for a lifetime. If you are familiar with the story of Joni Erickson Tada you know exactly what I mean. (If not, you should be.) Paralyzed from the neck down, as a teenager because of a diving accident, she has endured enormous afflictions over almost 50 years of her life since her injury. What about the Christians around the world, who for the sake of their faith, endure massive persecutions, often including the death of spouses, entire families, and the loss of their own lives?

A biblical worldview affirms the reality of life’s difficulties and the reality of God’s sovereignty over them. The Psalmist writes, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). A biblical worldview affirms, as does Joni Tada, “Lord, You have not redeemed me to make my life happy, healthy, or free of trouble. You’ve redeemed me to become more like Christ… and this is why I’m destined for trials.”

Parents, prepare your children to live in the real world and give them the means to deal with it.

 

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