You’d have thought I put on a tin-foil hat this afternoon when I tweeted, “Scuse me for being a little wary of conspiracy theories. I grew up thinking Keith Green was the antichrist & Social Security numbers were the mark of the beast.”
I can remember the exact moment one of my parents removed a Keith Green record from the player and returned it to its owner under decided instructions to never play it in our presence again. I also remember the day I walked into the social security office at age 19, signed my name, and apparently my soul, over to the devil. The lump in my throat was surely the first sign I was hell-bent on hell. Truthfully I just wanted my driver’s license and to stop getting paid under the table.
We cannot grow up unscathed by anything; we all carry the bumps and bruises of what our parents thought was best (Hebrews 12:7-11). Some will bear the presence of scars and some will bear the fruit of pruning—but we’re all carved out, shaped through, and pricked by the reality of life in a post-fall world.
And we’re all children of somebody broken by the same reality.
You don’t have to look far back in my family history to see dysfunction; in fact, a good hard look at just me will probably keep you busy for a good long time. We’re a mess, all of us, all the way back to Genesis. I don’t write about my family often because I love my parents, I know they love me, and I’m convinced they were doing what they thought was right. And, trust me, the antichrist and the mark of the beast are a small fraction of the oddities we embraced while I was growing up (and also a small fraction of the beauties of growing up in my particular family).
A few weeks ago I had a discussion with someone who landed on a very conservative position on a tertiary doctrine. My soul and flesh blanched, and my first thought was for the children. The children! Adults can navigate these difficult matters with a decorum of sanity, but children? Children are simultaneously the most accepting and most polarizing creatures. The world is so black and white to us as children, right and wrong, good and evil. We accept what is good, abhor what is evil, and call spades spades.
At some point, though, introduction to gray areas must happen with children, and eventually we need to decide for ourselves where we land on gray areas. Open-handed theology, secondary or tertiary doctrines, even matters of finances or what is considered modest—these must be areas where we are given the freedom to wrestle and own for ourselves in light of gospel implications. We are exposed to violence, politics, death, joy, sex, divorce—some of us are exposed to all and all are exposed to how everything is broken in a sense.
But the very first brokenness we encounter as children is our parents—and that is so very difficult.
I’m not a parent, but I imagine how difficult it must be to have concluded ideals that broke my child and for them to see my own flawed nature so clearly. I know, as a child, how very difficult it was for me to realize the devil didn’t reside in every song with a drum line; or that I wasn’t going to hell in a hand-basket when I got my little nine numbered blue card. It wasn’t wrestling with the music, though, or the number that was most difficult—it was the acknowledgement that Mom and Dad didn’t know best even if they were doing what they thought was best. And that that’s okay. Because God.
Every one of us has a story about our parents. We laugh about how over-protective they were, or under-protective. And for those of you who are parents, your children are crafting those stories about you right now. Some of them will be nostalgic “remember whens” and some of them will carry the weight of brokenness you tried to protect them from, but our prayer ought to be that these stories are told with greater perspective and deeper truths.
We pray we would not be like arrows kept in the quivers of our warrior parents, but that we would hit the mark, strong and true—even from broken bows.