Last week I watched Sixteen Candles with my almost 17 year old daughter.  After some foul language, nude scenes and the beloved foreign exchange student Mr. Dong, I contemplated once again how to do this. How do I parent my children and bring them up to know Jesus Christ as the foundation of their lives all the while living in “the world.”  I can’t shelter them from everything (and believe me, I’ve tried) and I know that isn’t the answer anyway. I don’t want them to fill their heads with things that aren’t pointing them toward Christ but the reality is we live in a messy, sinful and alluring place called earth.  So how do I let them live in the world but not be of it? And most confusing to me, how was this movie rated PG?

Part of the problem is how I grew up. I watched and loved all of John Hughes movies and more (worse).  Although I made a faith commitment to follow Christ in 7th grade, I decided in high school that the non-Jesus way was more fun, less restrictive and did I mention more fun? My own parents were so strict with me that I lied about everything.  My mother would have never allowed me to watch Sixteen Candles (let alone with her (thank goodness…awkward…)), so I’d just watch it at friend’s houses. I know from experience that forbidding things triggers a determination in teenagers to watch, eat, drink or smoke whatever said forbidden things are. So I don’t want to be so restrictive that my kids are lying to me, but I also do not want my kids to think I approve of naked teenagers and house parties.  So which is it? Friends or no Friends?  PG-13, R or only Veggie Tales for my kids?  Duggars or Kardashians? 

I have concluded that the answer today is the same as it was when I didn’t know what I was doing when they were newborns. Since my kids were babies I have prayed 1 Kings 3:9, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern these people of yours and to distinguish between right and wrong.” I cannot have blanket rules for movies, TV, boyfriends, dating and who pays for their auto insurance.  Every decision must be made after I ask God to give me wisdom and discernment.  About ten minutes into the movie I prayed and asked God to give me just that. Although we did watch the movie in its entirety I was prompted to talk about the movie with Hannah afterwards (i.e. after drinking all night one does not look or feel as good the prom queen did).  What does it sound like to receive wisdom and discernment in our parenting? It is usually a gut inspired feeling, words that I would have never thought of on my own or shutting up when I would have otherwise said something I shouldn’t have. To receive wisdom and discernment from the Lord comes first by asking for it and then by looking, listening and being open to His whisper in our hearts and minds. When I ask for wisdom the skies do not open up, my children do not rise and call me blessed and I’m not 100% I even got it right.  But I have learned to trust that if I took the time to ask God to help me, He will not ignore that request because he loves when we depend on Him, especially with the things and people we love the most.  

“Dear Lord, thank you for the wisdom and discernment you afford me when I simply remember to ask you for it. Thank you that you know that these kids are the treasure of my heart and that you also know I genuinely want them to always love you. If there is anything I need them to leave this house with Jesus, it is that they are leaving under your protection, wisdom and care. Thank you for giving me 1 Kings 3:9 when these now teenagers were just babies.  Help me to continue to pray it and ultimately to trust that you are listening. Thank you for giving me the words (or lack thereof), a hug or a timely and fitting consequence when I have needed it and thank you for the amazing peace that comes in laying my most precious possessions at your feet.  In Your Name, Amen.”