19 June 2007

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

A month or so ago, I picked up an article entitled, “Can You Overshelter Your Kids?” Expecting an answer in the affirmative, I was surprised to read a resounding no. The author said of course you can’t based on God’s actions. She explained that the opposite of shelter is endanger or expose and since God never endangers or exposes us, we never can to our kids, therefore you can’t overshelter your kids, by golly, shelter, shelter, shelter!
I have to wonder if she’s ever actually read the Bible. What would Job say? Did God allow Job in a difficult, might I even say exposed, position? How about Paul? Was Paul’s life ever endangered? Hebrews 11 and 12 anyone? My goodness, someone was even sawed in half for the faith! In fact, Jesus told us to expect these things.
I’m not saying you drop your kids of in the middle of gang central, kiss them goodbye, and say good luck! What I am saying is that sheltered surburbia with a side game of keep-away may not always be what God intends. Would you never let your kid ride a bike because he might fall off and hurt himself? Would you never allow your kids to participate in ministry because it might be dangerous? Of course, each person has a different role in the play. One may homeschool, another send to public, still another private school. That’s not really the question (although motivations for answering that question are related).
Some of you may say, Heather, you don’t even have kids. You have no idea what you are talking about. True, true. But I can think about these things, and I can attempt to work how an answer that reflects the Truth in this world. I want to live dangerously, meaning, I want to teach my kids, when I have them, to be lights in the world. I want to teach them to love their neighbor unconditionally, even when said neighbor takes advantage of them. I want to teach them to love the Lord their God in the midst of persecution. This type of education may require letting God expose them at times.
Of course, in all this education, I might have to learn it myself first!


relevantgirl said...

oh my.

Well, then I guess there'd never be married-with-children missionaries, would there?

My kids endured major hardship in France. And they are better for it. I have a chapter in my new parenting book about this weirdness in America where we feel the supreme value of parenting is sheltering. I guess you can tell which side of the debate I am on.

Jenn said...

Sometimes, Heather (I mean, "often, Heather"), when I read your blog, I want to print it off and wave it in people's faces and say, "See? See?!"

Heather said...

I'm so glad for your testimony, Mary. I think missionaries and other "dangerous living" folk abound with stories about the resulting maturity (although, yes, some have horror stories as well).
I teach flute in a private school, and these "sheltered" kids make me sad.
Jenn, careful! You'll get a papercut that way ;)

Christianne said...


Erin said...

Did the author mean "can't" as in, "you are incapable"? Or "can't" as in "perish the thought"?

Heather said...

as in "perish the thought." sorry, i guess that sentence should read we shouldn't rather than we can't. what can i say? written pre-coffee.

Naomi said...

Welcome to the world of "homier-than-thou" child-rearing. You don't want to know. I'm still in recovery myself. :)

Erin said...

Ok, then I disagree with that author. (Well, I guess I disagree in either case, but my reasons for disagreeing are different.)

I think it's impossible to shelter kids 100%. And I also think it's wise to let them try to swim in the deep end of life... with guidance... and a watchful eye... but our hands held behind our backs and not jumping in at the first sign of discomfort and struggle.

Erin said...

Oh, don't do anything- short of getting out of bed- before coffee. ;)

L.L. Barkat said...

One has to wonder what their homelife looks like. Of course, there are different kinds of sheltering, and God shelters us in different ways too.

I think of the passage in Isaiah where he says he'll break down his watchtower and his fences and let Israel go wild. We get the idea that he's been there as a sort of shelter, but no longer... when they need to see what life is without Him, in order to come to Him.

Nicole said...

I think there's a possible misconception in the term "sheltered". Each child is unique. Some can handle certain situations before others. As a parent, it's our job to figure out what is too much exposure for each child--as in damaging.

God is the determiner of how much and when these exposures should occur. The shelter from hardship is ultimately provided by God and then ideally through the parents as I'm sure Mary had to soothe and bind wounds to her children from their experiences.

Even as adults some of us are weakened by peer pressure and have to limit our environments to some degree (i.e. recovering alcoholics, drug users). Certain individuals require more or a longer period of shelter before they are released to live for Jesus independently.

Just because you offer shelter doesn't mean you aren't instructing them in the ways of this world, preparing them for their necessary journey through it.


Danica/Dream said...

Heather, I know exactly what you mean!

Jesus didn't say, "get your kiddos and lock yourself in your houses until I come back," or at least not in any of the translations I've read. He said, go OUT!!

How do you do that while sheltering them?

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Okay, I'm behind here but this is a subject I feel strongly about too. I grew up with a lot of sheltered kids. And I was probably sheltered too much too in someways. The thing is, parents won't be around to shelter their kids forever. And when they get out into the real world, many of them go overboard and don't know how to deal with reality because they've never been allowed to experience it in small, gradually increasing, and controlled doses. If anything, overprotecting your kids just sets them up to fail.