"The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and will extol Him. The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name."—Exodus 15:2-3
Several years ago during a monthly gathering of men we were discussing the issue of men protecting their families. One of the men asked a very good question: "Should we isolate our children [or wives] from the world or let them learn how to live within the world?" It is an important question every man (or woman in a single parent home) should give serious consideration.
The concern we have is the same concern we have observed many times in the animal world. Most of us have seen the wild animal lost or abandoned by its mother only to be raised by a human family. It is cared for, loved, nourished and protected. Eventually the day comes when the "family pet" has outgrown domestic life and must be returned to the wild. The family now has a dilemma. To return the beast to the wild after living its whole life sheltered and protected would mean certain death.
For the most part, our children are not wild beasts. But we face a similar fear. How shall we protect our family in a way that does not put them in danger the moment they are out of our presence? We must realize that the family shepherd is responsible for three things at various times in the lives of his family: He must insulate them, isolate them, and vaccinate them. Let’s look at each one briefly.
First, we must insulate them from the world in their formative years. We understand this well from a physical standpoint. We do not let children drive cars, vote for president, or fight in a war. They do not have the physical or intellectual development to perform such tasks properly. However, we often overlook this same limitation in how they are able to perceive and process the world around them. In a child’s mind, what makes the difference between daddy fighting in a war and two boys down the street fighting over candy?
Children are by nature like big satellite dishes. They take in anything and everything from the world around them. What do they do with all these observations? They turn them into interpretations. No child is a passive observer. Sometimes, my three-year-old daughter will come up with the craziest interpretations based upon something she has observed. Everything our children see and hear works toward how they understand the world around them.
In order to protect young children, I must be aware of how much the world around them influences their understanding, which in turn, influences their behavior. During these formative years, I must guard everything in their world. I must guard what they watch, what they see, what they hear, what they experience, everything! I must insulate them from the world. They do not need life experience. They need a "womb" in which to grow without danger from the outside world. Our homes should be such a place.
Second, we must at certain times isolate them from the world. As our children grow, we must have a discerning eye towards identifying those certain sinful desires and weaknesses with which each member of our family struggles. Each of your children will have greater struggles in certain areas. This is not protection in the same way I would try to protect my children from getting a cold. To do that my child would have to live in a bubble. Rather, this protection is like covering a deep wound with a big bandage so that infection cannot get to it.
I am not trying to keep them from being exposed to every potential situation in which they might sin. I can’t even do that for myself! But there are times I must keep my child away from influences or situations that make them particularly vulnerable to those stronger sinful desires in their heart. These desires will not lead to occasional failures (Psalm 19:12), but to sins that will take hold of them (Psalm 19:13). Look for particular areas of weakness and seek to protect through isolation.
Third, we must utilize the remaining years vaccinating them from the world. We all learned how vaccines work. The body is introduced to small amounts of dead or weakened elements of a disease that cause the body to react by forming antibodies to fight off the sickness. When the vaccinated person is then exposed to the potentially life-threatening disease itself, the body is able to resist it. We must teach our children how to engage the culture around them from a biblical worldview. They cannot be like the wild animal who has never seen a jungle. Yet this exposure to the world is not arbitrary. They must be able to live in the world while loving God with their hearts and their minds.
We must strategically expose our children to the culture in a way that teaches rather than influences. We gradually help them to live in the world but not be of the world in ways that do endanger their souls or poison their minds. Eventually, our hope is to release them into the world as salt and light. They will no longer be the defenseless but the defenders of the faith. They will turn the jungle of worldliness into a garden of righteousness, peace, and joy.