I am a volunteer counselor in an Islam-saturated area of Cape Town. The suffering I encounter in just two days a week is enough to make your head spin and your heart develop a deeper understanding of why God so desperately wants His beloved to return to Him.
Last week, as I was leaving the counseling center to pick my shiny-eyed boy up from school, my world got rocked when I made eye contact with a 3-year old. She was wearing a fluffy, pink jacket. And her eyes were not shiny. The inherent shine that is part of the thread our Creator creates with was gone. Already. Her parents were also threadbare.
The pink jacket princess has an 11-year old cousin who had been exposed to pornography. In a flash of a screen, in an unprotected moment in his childhood, this boy’s life had been changed forever. He, in turn, changed a little pink princess’ life forever. She had just come from the hospital.
A floodgate of stories opened up from the community of 9, 10, 11, 12-year-old little boys whose shiny innocence had not been protected. Screens had become pacifiers and parents while fathers sat in prison. Drives and impulses were awakened in them that they had no idea what to do with. As a result, several other princesses lost their shine. It has become a cultural norm.
I drove to Lifa’s happy, suburban school that afternoon very aware that just as many children in our neighborhood have unlimited access to the world through thumb flicks, screen taps and remote controls. I was haunted by the idea that one flash of a screen could change a life forever.
We don’t have TV in our house. He has no access to a cell phone or a computer, unless I’m sitting next to him while he uses my laptop. We’ve come to terms with his future teenage world being irritatingly limited compared to the rest of the teenage world. But there are all those moments he’s not with us and all those other kids…
I went to bed that night with fearfulness so heavy it gave me a backache. I told Chris I wanted to forget all that stuff about raising Lifa to be a relevant Christ-follower. Instead, I would like to lock him in a small box, shine a bright light in it and play worship music 24/7. He gently offered that my suggestion might not be the best solution.
I suspected I would not be able to remove every harmful message, image, word or sound from the entire world or lock my child in a light box. So I brought my fearfulness to the Light Himself. I begged the Holy Spirit to do something.
Bring on the light, Lord.
The next morning, I woke Lifa up for another day of school with fewer burdens on my back but still no plan more redeeming than my light box idea. Lifa loves computers and scrambles for the chance to get to learn on them at school. He also loves the Bible. Without thinking twice about it that morning, I sat next to him at the kitchen counter and helped him set up his own account on the Bible app. I showed him how he could read the Bible at school, highlight verses, make notes, how to find kids' Bible reading plans, He could even become friends and send messages to Mom and Dad.
My 9-year old kid’s eyes shone extra bright as he bounded out of the car for school that morning, amped by the incredible reality that technology has made his access to the Word of God limitless.
“TELL DAD HE HAS TO ADD ME AS A FRIEND TODAYYYYY! I CAN NOT BELIEVE THIS.”
And there was the redemption I had been begging for.
My kid does not need to be locked up in a light box. He needs to be armed with light, protected, and equipped.
I spent too much time thinking about the dark last week.
Eventually, you start to look like what you think about.
A worried lady once cried at a grave after experiencing the very worst loss of her life. What if she never would have looked up and realized she was standing next to the greatest redeeming miracle in the history of the world? What if she had never realized Jesus was there, and all He needed her to do was cheer up and go tell people?
This week, I won’t waste another moment pondering what kind of padlock I should have for the world’s most secure light box. I will look at Who is standing next to me. I will spend all that extra thinking time finding innovative ways to unlock Light to my child.
I will put the sword of the Spirit in his 9-year old hand, and make it accessible with the swipe of a thumb and a click of a button.
I will protect him with an aggressively hopeful, joy-filled posture of taking on the world as the offense team instead of the defense.
We’re here to be a Church.
Church doesn’t hide from the dark; it brings Light into it.
That means we leave our light boxes. We arm, equip and protect our families. We don’t send our 9-year olds out unprotected, and we don’t give fear a foothold.
We look up, and we see that Jesus has been standing there the whole time.