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I sat at my kitchen table with a friend who is further along in this parenting journey than I am. She has two grown children and one in high school. She came over to talk about my home-based skincare business, but the conversation didn't stay on skincare for long.
My friend began to tell me about a child her daughter babysits. Her daughter has babysat for the family often and is quite familiar with the children. But with one child there was a recent change. The grammar-school-aged girl decided she was a boy.
Compared to living in Atlanta, where I'm from, I consider where I live now a "small town." I expected a story like this in a major metropolitan city, but I didn't expect it here. It was as if a news headline from a major cable news channel popped out of my television and landed next to me at the kitchen table.
Shock came over me. I may be naive, but this was the first time I had a personal friend know a transgender child for goodness sake. Sure, homosexuality is no longer surprising even in small town America. But transgender children have only been a headline in recent years as stories of bathroom wars are reported. Small town America is still catching up to this cultural change.
As I sat at the table I could feel anxiety rise up in my body. It wasn't anger or resentment or even judgment. It was fear. My mind didn't stay on the little girl confused about her sexual identity. My mind jumped to my two daughters - one and four years old.
This anxiety isn't new to me as it's probably not new to you. In the past five years our mainstream family culture has changed so much that I feel this anxiety often when I turn on the news, overhear conversations of other people, or hear the state of our public schools. It makes me daydream of packing up our minivan with as much stuff as it can hold and moving west to a plot of land so obscure nobody will ever find us.
But is that what Jesus would do?
As I sat at the kitchen table my friend admitted to me that her teenager daughter was struggling with this change in the little girl she babysits. Then she asked me, "What would you do? What would you do if that were your daughter's friend or even best friend? Would you allow her to continue to play with her friend? Would you allow your daughter to go to her house? What would you say to your daughter?"
The anxiety built and I answered the only way I knew how, "I don't know." And I don't know. But what I do know is that fear shouldn't be a part of my answer. Anger and resentment that my children won't grow up in the "Christian America" I grew up in shouldn't be a part of my answer either.
Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says in the introduction of his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel,
"The problem was that, from the very beginning, Christian values were always more popular in American culture than the Christian gospel. Now, however, it is increasingly clear that American culture doesn’t just reject the particularities of orthodox Christianity but also rejects key aspects of 'traditional values.' We ought to approach the future without the clenching of our fists or the wringing of our hands. We ought to see the ongoing cultural shake-up in America as a liberation of sorts from a captivity we never even knew we were in. The shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on American Christianity. In fact, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself."
When I read Russell Moore's words, there was a shift in my perception of the time period my children are growing up in. I stopped looking back longingly to better days, days even before I was born but have seen television shows about, days of Leave It to Beaver and Mayberry. I stopped pining for a world where church was normal and "everybody" was Christian. When I felt fear of how the world is going to ruin my kids, I countered it with the gift of opportunity God has given me.
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us" Acts 17:26-27.
Raising children in this time period, and being raised in this time period, is a gift from God. You see, I don't want to raise morally good kids who follow all the rules and say "yes ma’am" and "no ma’am" but whom have hearts made of stone, far from God, and a Pharisaical attitude. I want to raise children who love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, so much that they are willing to sacrifice all, surrender all, for the sake of the gospel. I don't want my kids to choose Jesus just when it's easy. I want them to choose Jesus when it's hard.
When I look at Jesus' disciples in the New Testament I do not see an easy Christianity. I see sacrifice and persecution. I see men and women fully surrendered to the gospel no matter the cost of their reputation, standard of living, or even lives.
The American culture of the past made being a Christian easy. It was a country club Christianity, as I like to call it. A person could have his cake and eat it too because no one, not even unbelievers, challenged him. Even though everyone might not have had salvation through faith in Jesus, everyone had the same Christian values, and that's all that mattered.
There’s no doubt that we live in unprecedented times. As Christianity becomes more marginalized and less mainstream, our children will grow up and live adult lives differently than we did. No longer will there be cultural perks for being a Christian. Even though this seems scary, it’s actually good news. This gives us the opportunity to teach our children the Christianity of the Bible - not the Christianity of America. We have the opportunity to train up sold-out Christians who will be the salt and light in this world, showing people another way - the only Way - the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's not be afraid, but instead be encouraged, knowing that God will fully equip us, as parents, for the difficult task He has laid before us, and that in doing so we will be seeking the Kingdom of God for our children and for our culture.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.