“I’d bite his arm!” he shouted excitedly from the backseat. “And then I’d punch him hard right in the peanuts!”
When the boys were small, David and I would occasionally ask them to imagine how they would escape from a ‘very bad person’ who might try to take them away from their mom, dad, or safety. This creative exercise delighted them to no end.
*Please note, dear readers, that I am not suggesting that this is what you should do with your own children. But as our growing posse of male offspring grew increasingly more adventurous and difficult to wrangle, it seemed a fairly decent idea at the time.
All that said, in every escape scenario conjured up in the backseat of the old Chevy Suburban, each breathless boy would describe how he would free himself from the literal grip of evil, and also deliver some holy wrath to the perp’s ‘peanuts’ region.
I’m fairly certain this parenting philosophy would not win us any blue ribbon awards today. But one reason for our approach was that we didn’t want to raise overly anxious or suspicious boys in a culture that is overly anxious and suspicious about almost everything.
We wanted our sons to remain interested in others and helpful to strangers. And so we had to allow for frequent interaction with unknown others, as odd and unfamiliar as they often were.
We prayed our boys would warmly avail themselves towards the needy. And so we had to stop and actually avail ourselves to the needy; the angry; the desperate, the little bit scary. We had to routinely practice stopping; smiling warmly; asking questions; listening patiently; remembering names and particular details so we could pray.
We hoped our boys would be considerate and careful with all those made in God’s own image. And so we challenged them to be appropriately alert, not only for the warning signs of real danger, but also for the easily missed pathways that can carry us towards others with good news and peace.
David and I didn’t want our boys to grow up and be well-trained at hunkering down in the bunker. We also didn’t want our family to be a holy huddle, tempting as that was. But mostly, we begged God to give us the courage and faith to punch our worst fears in the peanuts.
And now we have a pre-teen girl. Yes, yes, we surely do. And the same parenting tension and temptation presents itself aggressively once again: How do we prepare our daughter to stay alert to very real danger in this world, and not hamstring her with inordinate suspicion and fear?
I’m not sure -maybe I’ll write about that next. But in the meantime, this is a wise and true passage of scripture, deserving of my full attention:
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy. He will be quiet in His love. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Peace to you and yours today, because surely God himself, our victorious warrior, is in our very midst.