In The Mind of a child
A child’s mind is a fertile place, a garden if you wish, that we as parents have been given to tend. We are not able to control all of the elements, but we can plants seeds that will grow under the guidance of God’s providence into beautiful flowers and we can take eradicative and protective measures in regards to weeds and destructive insects.
In the end you will get out of a garden what you put into it. In our life and the lives of our children the seeds which produce plants, the seeds which define us, are thoughts and ideas. Words are but the way that God gave us to communicate thoughts, thus words have power not because there are syllables and rules of grammar at work but because words communicate ideas and thoughts. Thoughts are communicated in many ways and in those many ways thoughts are not only being projected but incepted as well.
It is important for us to realize what is often so obvious. And what is obvious to us all is that a thought, however simple, placed in the mind of an individual and taking root as a simple reality or impression can change the course of a person’s decision making process and thus their actions. I have been often struck with how true this is, how a person can have such simple thoughts put in them that over time they deviate in their perception of truth and thus their conduct from day to day – especially in the fertile mind of a child.
This has been seen throughout history, seemingly innocent fallacies and exploratory mind-sets that steer the course of civilizations. The Enlightenment period in the west began, without committing blatant blasphemy, to exalt man, giving us among other things an idea of inherent rights of divine origin that are possessed by mankind. This idea seemed innocent enough and was embraced by much of Christendom, but the problem is that the road such a thought led down did not lead to a cross-centered, Gospel-oriented way of thinking and reasoning but to subjectivity, secular humanism, and arrogant exaltation of the supposed rights of man over a sovereign God who has so mercifully worked redemption for men that according to their nature had sold their rights for a morsel of bread and retained no rights except the right to rightfully perish. It is no small wonder that if you trace this ideology back you find that the root of secular humanism is in a thought, the mere tweaking of perspective.
This is why we leaders, whether in the church or at home, should with humble reliance on God’s grace seek to be free from all thinking that is not rooted in the Gospel. The process of doing this is both reactive and proactive and we will look at both.
It is our responsibility as godly parents to shepherd our family and that includes rising to the responsibility of guarding them from destructive thoughts; seeds that can only grow into weeds. There a many places and ways in which our children are exposed to thoughts or susceptible to error, but we will just take a look at some that I have been burdened with in particular.
We must be aware of the fact that our children are not likely mature enough to discern what is true and right and what is not. We may be listening to a sermon that is not sound or watching a movie that espouses errant thought and we assume that our kids won’t pick up on the things in it that are at fault or that if they do pick up on it they will discern that it is faulty. We must never assume that this is so. For what gardener would mix seeds for weeds and seeds for vegetable plants together and assume the only vegetables will grow? So we must also not assume that our children, when given a blend of truth and error, will be able to discern between the two. At that stage in life a thought is a thought. An example would be that they are just as ready to accept that Santa Claus comes on Christmas eve as they are to accept that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Only one is true, but they can’t discern that.
Tangible, Truth-Driven, Gospel-Centered Living
One of the things that many of us fail to realize is that before we can guard our family from error is that we must be guarding our own mind from error as parents. We must realize that our wrong thinking affects how are children perceive truth. One way this is especially dangerous is when we use our reasoning to justify our sin. This can lead them to not see sin for what it is and to grow up excusing it in their own heart. Children see your sin or at least the effects of it, so it is important that they see us relate properly to our sin. I encourage parents to be vulnerable in front of their children and to let their children see that they need the Gospel. We need to realize that our example in how we view God and how we act in relation to our view of God is seen by our children and will shape their early perception of who God is and will help them construct a proper practical theology flowing from a proper view of God.
The Paradigm-Shaping Playground
Media. There is probably no subtler way that Satan feeds us error than through media. When we think that our mind is in “veg” state and we are just “chilling” our worldview is actually being shaped by degrees. What we think is funny, sad, shocking, and so forth, is being shaped by what we entertain ourselves with. I encourage you to watch movies before you kids watch them, take note of themes and attitudes in those movies. Then using God’s word as the standard of purity, edification and truthfulness, follow the themes and attitudes of those movies and tv shows to where they lead. The same applies to music lyrics. I am shocked and ashamed at some of the lyrics that I have allowed to grace my own ears and then when I hear children listening to those same songs I am nearly frightened! All media is nuanced and to think that no paradigm-shaping information, good or bad, is foolish. The point I am trying to drive home is that there is no neutral thought!
The Battle We Fight
One of the best things we can do to combat bad thinking is by having a good offense against it. It is inevitable that our children will be exposed to thoughts that are not true, but we must provide them with a standard to measure all things by and teach them how to expose error for what it is. The way we do that is by saturating our mind with true things, namely God’s word. Many of the ways that are in error in our thinking are simply the result of years of implantation of thoughts that are contrary to God’s objective truth. This can be done many different ways: errant teaching, friends, education, entertainment, etc. We are inundated with erroneous thinking and our kids are as well. Sadly that exposure is often unwittingly done by us. We must be aware of our responsibility and know that as parents our struggle in this world is to be constantly combating lies.
Relativism Is Not Helpful
A thought is a potent thing and most often it is a cocktail of thoughts that forms our worldview – our perception of reality. If one of the thoughts that is part of the construct of that worldview is contrary to truth then it produces a weak link in our thinking process. No one is immune to this and at this moment every one of us has a number of weak links in our chain of reason. The danger with realizing this is that we would drift into a subjective, fatalistic mindset that says, “No one has it all together” or “No one has perfect theology”. Such relativism is not only dangerous for you but is especially so for your children! Instead, knowing as fallen people that we have weak links, we should with great humility and vigor approach God’s word and seek a life of combating lies with truth. For as potent and powerful as a false thought is, truth is even more powerful for the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth.
As a last point I want to address a way of thinking that is rooted in the subjectivity mentioned above and is very popular today, often being seen in movies and music lyrics. This way of thinking is tied to the emotions and often asks the question “How do you feel about that?”. If our thinking is being driven by our emotions then we will believe that something is true because it resonates with our heart and “feels right”. This is a huge pitfall that will lead to the ruin of many. Our passions and emotions are poor discerners of truth. We should not suppress the emotions of our children by any means! They are part of the way God created us in his image as he often reveals himself in the Scriptures as exhibiting emotion! However, we should use the Scriptures to teach us what is true about what we are feeling or what is true in spite of what we are feeling and not use our feelings to verify what is true. When we teach our children to base their thinking on how they feel we are sending them as rudder-less ships into dangerous waters.
Fathers and mothers, take care! Satan would desire that destructive seeds be planted in the minds of your children. To place a thought, however small, in a child’s mind is a powerful thing that can shape civilizations! In your children you hold in your arms the future defenders of truth or promulgators of error. It is not over night that we will come to deny the deity of Christ, the Trinity, original sin, the atonement or any of the other great doctrines of Scripture, but with certain erroneous thoughts, received as true, planted in the mind of our children we will start down a road that will lead to such denials. The Enemy can be very patient about these things, subtlety is after all one of his primary attributes!
There is so much more that could be said, but I wish to end on a positive note. We can do war against the untruth that has been planted in our minds and the minds of our children. By the grace of God, the light of His word, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to replace the weak links in our chain of thought and reason with unbreakable links forged of the unchanging, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God Almighty. He is the one who never changes and never lies!
Just as the fertile mind of a child can so easily receive the planting of weeds so also it can be filled with things that are true, beautiful, and edifying. Fill the minds of your children with good things! You would never desire to feed them poison! Give them food for their minds that is healthy and good!
Our God is faithful to keep his own in the truth, thus we should pursue truth and teach it to our kids, knowing that God is able to root it in their hearts. We can praise God that as the years come and go, lies arise and perceptions decay, that we have a sure standard of truth that we can always look to. Look to God’s word and then look at the world around you. Teach your children what God says about life, this world we live in, and the world to come.