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I live with four women. And our dog is female too. This means we are a very verbal household. At any one point in the day, it is common to have three to four conversations directed at me simultaneously. Seriously. My mind freezes and I lock up. Many times I’ve thrown my hands up (in a spiritual act of surrender), and shouted (in a very unspiritual act of humanity), “One of you has to stop talking!”
But then there are those divine moments in our family. There are times when I am able to unplug from the daily stranglehold of work meetings, errands, running kids to dance and gymnastics, deadlines, and more. Usually this happens about 8:30 pm. The kids are in bed and tucked in for the eleventh time and I sneak downstairs for one last peak into their room to make sure they are asleep. In those divine moments I find one of them still awake, and I spend a few quiet moments with one conversation instead of four.
Recently these moments have come with my oldest daughter. She is a reading fiend. She reads every night—a second grade prodigy with a love for books. For a while she had a picture Bible with pretty pictures of Jesus, birds, happy kids, and a few glimpses of Bible stories. But just a week ago she graduated to the next level of Bible. This one has a daily reading plan, and actually tells more of the stories in Scripture. As a pastor-daddy I was proud and eager as she started reading.
At least until the first night.
About 25 minutes after I tucked her in, she wandered upstairs, rubbing sleep out of her eyes and said, “Daddy, I have a question.” I took her hand, walked her back to her bed, and snuggled in close to listen.
She proceeded to tell me she had just read the story from 2 Samuel 13 of Absalom, Amnon, and Tamar (on her first night!). If you don’t know, this is perhaps one of the most dysfunctional family moments in all of Scripture, complete with a murder plot, incestuous relationships, jealousy, and more. My daughter had more than one question—she had several.
Why did that boy love his half-sister?
Why did his brother want to kill him?
Why is this in the Bible?
I muttered my best answer, walked upstairs, and told my wife we needed to send her back to the picture Bible. She wasn’t ready for the version without the pretty Jesus.
But the reality is, she is ready. I’m not. I want to protect my kids. Every inclination in my being is about guarding them from the dangers they will face in this world. With daughters I know they will battle self-image, peer pressure, sexual pressure, hurtful words, and more. I don’t want them to go through that. I want the pretty Jesus surrounded with birds and happy kids to drive their lives. I don’t want to have to answer those hard questions about Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom.
The beauty of Scripture is that it is often not beautiful. It’s full of mess. Ugliness. Chaos. Dirt. Sin. And the story of a God who doesn’t protect his people from the mess, but walks with them into it. This is the Scripture we study, and the message we must proclaim.
So parents, beware. One day your prayers may be answered and your children may start reading the Bible—the real Bible—and they may come to you for answers. The question is whether you’re willing to go to the mess with them in order to find the answers.
Justin felt called to ministry the summer before his senior year of high school on a trip serving in South Africa. He graduated from Geneva College with a degree in Student Ministry in 2001 and again from Bethel Seminary with a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership in 2010. He has spent the past ten years serving in several churches in youth, college, and worship ministry.