The grand special effect that caught the eyes of the audience in The Wizard of Oz was color. That’s it, just color. And they were dazzled. And though there were some exciting events, the effects were not up to our modern standards. Still, as the tornado closes in on the family farm, one can’t help but be concerned, or excited. A tornado has three key elements of excitement: speed, power, and unpredictability. I’ve seen my share of natural disasters. I’ve lived in Florida, and I’ve experienced hurricanes. I’ve lived in San Francisco, and I’ve experienced earthquakes. And I’ve lived in Kansas, and I’ve experienced tornadoes. The irony, in the providence of God, is that all three of these wild rides I experienced while living in Pennsylvania. I’m a weather junky. There has never yet been a storm that I have not wished to experience, from the center. When the rain, thunder and winds come our way, Denise is doing well is she can keep me in the sunroom of our house. She won’t coax me all the way inside. I want to be in the middle of it.
Perhaps the appeal is that it seems like such a safe danger, that it gives thrills without guilt. God, I think, isn’t going to get angry with me. I’m endangering no one else, and I’m not breaking His law. But those considerations did not always stop me in my own pursuit of excitement. Not only have I experienced some serious weather, so too have I experienced some serious sin. I’ve lost my lunch a time or two, from overindulging in liquid courage. I’ve been pursued by the law, once for entering where I should not have (I was exploring an abandoned hospital), and once for not allowing others to enter where they should not have (blocking the doors of an abortion mill). I could go on cataloguing the sins of my youth, but the point is that when I was young I did many things I shouldn’t have.
Could my youth have been any different? Of course not. Did God use my sins for my good and His glory? Absolutely. Do I want my children to go through the same things? Not on your life. I want to shelter my children, and I say so without apology. I no more want my children to walk through the storm of my own youthful rebellion than I want them playing outside when the funnel cloud comes blowing through. I want them in the cellar, where they belong, where it is safe.
Some argue against homeschooling on the grounds that such is sheltering children. I always reply, “What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing our children?” This parenting philosophy, that we throw our lambs to the wolves so that they might become brave, is thinly veiled folly. The argument is so transparent that I wonder that those who make it aren’t ashamed of their nakedness. It is work to guard the hearts of our children. It is no easy thing to fend off those who would consume our children. I mean, how are we supposed to watch NYPD Blue if we won’t let the kids watch it? It seems far better to order the sheep to guard themselves than to stop running with the wolves. We abdicate, and call it courage or wisdom.
Children need to be sheltered, to be protected. They need to be protected from themselves, and from those who would lead them astray. They are not ready to reason out the will of God in all circumstances, far less ready to defeat temptation in whatever form it comes. While God certainly can and does use sin for good, just as He can use a storm, we certainly can not sin that providential grace might abound all the more.
My children, like all children, are sinners. They were born that way. But that doesn’t mean they need to become experts on sin. Wise, yes, jaded, no. While they are by no means innocent before the throne of God, in themselves, nevertheless, I want to maintain their “innocence” as long as possible. They don’t need to know about crack houses, child-beaters, homosexuals, and pornography. That doesn’t make them ignorant either. They do know about spouses who failed to keep their promises. They know that some children disobey all the time, and that some mommies and daddies don’t obey God and punish their disobedient children. They do know about death. They do know that some mommies kill their babies, that many people worship false gods, and that often those who love Jesus are sent to prison or killed. In short, they know the Bible, and they know what it teaches, that the world is full of sin, as are we.
I shelter my children. I would sooner have my children left out in a tornado, than placed in the hands of a professional priest of the religion of the state, a government school teacher. When are they ready to go out and win the lost for Jesus? Here’s a good rule of thumb. Winning souls, and protecting your own soul, is far more difficult, and important than making a living. If they can’t do the latter, don’t send them out to do the former. If you wouldn’t send them out to fight a grown teacher with fists, why do it with wits, especially when the teacher has the whole world cheering him on?
Shelter is good, and not something for which we should be ashamed. There are things children don’t need to know, and keeping them from that knowledge is service to the King. If gay means happy, and queer means odd to your children, you are doing a good thing. Stand firm against the wolves who growl at you that you are sheltering your children. Tell them what one little girl learned the hard way, that there’s no place like home.
By R.C. Sproul Jr.