LISA UPDIKE | GUEST
I walked into Walmart thinking about purchasing a watermelon and salad greens to create a nice, fresh summer meal. I pushed my sunglasses up on my head and proceeded through the route I always take: through the seasonal and sale stuff (just in case there is something good) and then past the candles, women’s clothes, and straight to the produce. Walking my route, I was taken aback. Where the sunscreen had been showcased just last week stood huge displays of glue sticks, pencils, markers, and crayons. Excuse me, Mr. Manager; don’t you know I haven’t even gone on my summer vacation? It is certainly not time to think about school yet! Still, no matter how frustrated I might get with the early arrival of school supplies in my store’s aisles, the new school year is just around the corner, and mothers everywhere are preparing their hearts for the new school year—homeschoolers, Christian schoolers, and public schoolers alike.
A Fear We All Have Felt
In my role as the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church, I’m privy to the thoughts of many mothers. As moms think about “back to school,” one emotion keeps bubbling to the surface over and over. I hear it in their voices, in the questions they ask, and the conversations they have. It’s not a pretty emotion. It’s one that can sometimes paralyze us. Fear. We’ve all felt it. Moms are afraid of the task of raising children in today’s culture. When kids are home with us all summer and activities are more family based, that fear slips into the recesses for a bit. But the thought of sending our kids out again to interact with others at school, sports, even our homeschool co-ops, means exposure where we might not have control over what comes in.
It’s a dangerous world out there, full of violence, and lies. Many parents despair. How can they raise their children to love and follow Jesus in a world where gun violence, social media, and gender confusion dominate the news? The message of the world seems to ring louder and louder. We find ourselves thinking: If only things were like when we were kids. Then we would know what to do!
Mommas, I hear you and I understand. These are frightening times. I mean, the culture hates us. It seeks to silence Christians, sometimes vilifying us, and at best trying to diminish our voices. That’s no fun. In fact, it’s downright unpleasant. Maybe even scary. Can’t we just go back to the watermelons and fresh salad of summer? Let’s just go back to the beach, shall we? Just me and my family. Or, even better, could we travel back in time when society didn’t see us as an enemy, when people thought churchgoers were good people?
Acts 17 and a Certain Comfort
Sorry. These are not options for us. But don’t lose heart! Listen to what God says!
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. (Acts 17:26 NIV)
Do you see that? God marked out your appointed time in history and the exact place where you should live. He determined that you, and your children, would live right here and right now. In this very culture at this very time. If God chose to put me and my family here at this time, it must be good. Right? After all, God is perfect in all he does. But the passage doesn’t stop there. It gives me even more hope; it tells us why God put each of us in our exact places and times.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.(Acts 17:27 NIV)
What great news! God put us here for our good. God put our children here for their good, too! Why? So that they might reach out and find him! Living in this era is not a punishment or particular trial for us to battle through. God has placed our families here and now as the very means by which our children might reach out to the Lord. Furthermore, these are not “God forsaken” times because this verse says that God is not far from us. What comfort to know that God is near!
As your summer winds down, make sure to buy one more watermelon before you begin to shop for school supplies and clothes. And once school finally begins and the teacher letters come home, crumpled in the bottom of the backpack, and your kids tell you about the Tik Tok video their friend showed them, and they begin talking about the family who has two dads, do not be overwhelmed and do not fear. Stand firm, Mommas. Teach your children the faith. Have your family devotions. Talk about the gospel as you drive to sports practice. Go to church. Pray. Do the next thing. And in the everydayness of raising your children in the faith, remember that God placed you and your family in this exact time so that you all would reach out and find him, for he is not far from any one of us.