There are certain Bible verses that stay in the forefront of my thoughts. They are typically verses with strong imagery, with straightforward application, the sort of verse that you can see in action around you practically anywhere you look. I Peter 5:8 is such a verse:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
I think about this a great deal lately, about the last five words in particular. I know people who have been devoured by the adversary, people who have been eaten and metabolized by the awful work of sin. We think of being devoured as being destroyed, but nothing eternal can be destroyed, it can only be changed, and we all know people who bear the marks of such a transformation. To some degree, we all bear such scars ourselves.
I think about these things when I look at my children, when my daughter is squeezing my hand and looking up at me with large and innocent eyes, when my son is standing in the center of our living room staring up at the television and drinking in whatever we have chosen for him to see, when my wife is at home and I am at work and she is facing the dark thoughts of a dreary afternoon. I think about these things, and I wonder what, if anything, I have done to keep this beast at bay. Some days, I know and fear the answer to that question.
But I should be clear here, we are not to fear Satan. There is only one thing that we are to fear, and that is not fear itself, but God Almighty. For Satan, we reserve our vigilance. For Satan, we reserve our seriousness and our sobriety of mind. And we know what this means. It means no more laughing at little sins, at cute wickednesses and clever blasphemies. It means being wise and alert and sleeping with one spiritual eye open. It means going through our homes and looking at everything with an air of suspicion, with an air of caution, with the thought in the back our minds that our families and our own lives may depend upon it. Because whether we like to think about it or not, there is a beast out there, and he is hunting for more than just you.
Parents are always talking about how to protect their children without sheltering them. Invariably, in these conversations, the word “sheltered” is used as if being sheltered is a bad thing. I presume that most of the people who makes these arguments live in modern houses, with four or more walls and a roof and everything, and not, as they would seem to be advocating, on a bed of pine needles beneath a canopy of (preferably) sparsely limbed trees. To be fair, and to go ahead and make the anti-shelterian counter-argument before one of them does, yes, my house has windows. To go further, if a window overlooked an Adult Drive-in (my crack research team assures me that, while rare, they still do exist) I would either move, or keep that window closed.
My opinion on protecting children without failing to prepare them for life, is as follows. Anyone who reads the Bible to their children will have a hard time “sheltering” them. We have fratricide and other brutality in the first few chapters; keep reading and youâ€™ll hit rape, incest, idolatry, rebellion, war, famine, pestilence, etc. And while Iâ€™m not advocating providing details to children, I am advocating the idea that they can understand more than we give them credit for. I have a friend who told his children that a prostitute was someone who behaves as if they are married when they are not. In the childrenâ€™s minds, the prostitute was taking money to make dinner or to lay in bed and talk. But this was sufficient. The cynical mind says: but the child doesn’t truly understand what goes on when a man goes into a prostitute. A wise man says: do I? Proverbs says that the way of a man with a maid was too wonderful for him, Paul says that the true nature of the relationship between a man and a woman is a mystery. In the end, I think it is our foolishness that bites us, in that we believe that our exposure to sin has made us wiser rather than just more knowledgeable. We are become Eve, eating fruit not meant for us and gasping at the joy of untimely knowledge.
As a side note, in my experience, the problem with a sheltered child is that parents have often failed to give their children any real responsibility (authority for which they are held accountable). Responsibility and accountability allow obedience to perform itâ€™s work, taking faith and adding virtue, and to virtue finally, knowledge.