but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
This was the memory verse we learned in Sontown last month. When I asked the kids what the word conform meant most of them stared at me blankly. One kid hesitantly raised his hand and said “my dad told me it means trying to be like everyone else”.
I thought that was a very good definition. What does it mean for a child to not conform to the pattern of this world? In Sontown we’ve been talking about ways kids can live life Jesus’ way instead of the world’s way, such as knowing the truth instead of accepting lies, loving others and saying no to fear.
The "saying no to fear" lesson was one that really got me thinking. Kids identify with fear. When asked for examples of what they were afraid of every hand in the room was waving anxiously wanting to answer. The pattern of this world for children really is fear. I know it was for me even when I was a child.
Recently I read in Max Lucado’s book “Fearless” that “ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950’s.” (p.5) In the last months at a children’s ministry conference I heard the sickening statistic that there are now over 1 million PRESCHOOLERS (yes I said PRESCHOOLERS, as in kids under age 5) on antidepressants in the United States today.
How can this be? Why are kids, KIDS! Living in fear? Isn’t childhood supposed to be that time of life where you are carefree, growing and discovering the big amazing world that God has created? How can we not conform to the pattern of this world so that children do not have to live in fear?
I hope you won’t get tired of stories from my childhood and things my parents did. I want to present practical examples to you of how the ideas I mention can be applied to real life. Having no kids of my own (yet), I rely on what I know about how I was raised. I also know that I am one of those rare adult children who still looks up to my parents with respect for how they parented me and appreciate them all the more.
One way to do things differently than the rest of the world is to know your child and adjust life accordingly. When I was just a baby my mom realized that I would get really agitated if we went out more than one night a week. Being a pastor’s wife and a church planter this was a regular occurrence and very much the expected pattern for her to live. My mom drew the boundary though of only being out one night a week. As a baby I couldn’t demand what I needed. She stood up for the defenseless and stood her ground in the midst of criticism (and there was criticism).
Another example of how my parents knew me and adjusted life was when I was a preschooler my parents noticed that after watching cartoons I would get sassy and act in ways that were really odd. One day as my mom asked me to do something, I “responded, I am going to push you out the window” (it is embarrassing to admit I said such a thing, even though I do not even remember it). This was a scary thing for my mom to hear just seemingly out of the blue.
My parents realized then that the only place I was learning things like that was from the cartoons I was watching. Innocent looking characters like the looney toons engaged in behavior that was very violent, but they got away with it because they were cartoon animals. They look innocent to adults because we think abstractly and know the difference between fiction and reality, young children have not arrived at that level of cognitive development however.
Let’s just say that was the end of TV in our house. Not only did my parents have me stop watching television shows, but they stopped too. They weren’t going to expect something of us that was different from what they did. As we got older we were able to watch videos, but my parents were very selective.
They saw something that was affecting me in a negative way, so they took action and changed how they lived. If it had been my brother or sister, maybe it would have been different (it probably would have, because I was the more difficult child). It is probably different for your kids. But living a life that doesn’t conform to the pattern of this world takes drastic action sometimes.
My parents did many things for our sake that drew criticism from others including colleagues in ministry. But they knew each of us. They were sensitive to what affected us and they fought to raise their kids God’s way, because they wanted godly kids. Once we entered our teenage years people started going to them for advice on parenting. Others noticed a difference in our lives that they liked.
What affects your kids? What makes them afraid? What makes them agitated? What can you do to not conform to the pattern of this world in your home? You can stand up for your child in a way no one else can. You can choose to set a pattern of peace and godliness in your home that gives both you and your child a chance to renew your minds.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
One more story to close... Bedtimes were hard for me even as young as age two. I was an anxious child. To help me fall asleep and take my focus off of my fears they decided to focus on God before bedtime. They instituted a routine where we would read a Christian book, sing and then pray before bed. It worked and they actually still do it today. That routine was reassuring as a child. No matter where we moved, or what was going on around us we’d end our day all together and renew our minds, turning over all our cares to a God who loves us.