Back in November of 1978, Julie and I began our lives together. It was a wonderful day. All the the kids in our children’s church were so excited about attending our wedding. I’ll never forget one little fellow name Zach who asked us if he could go on our “moon ride” with us. I told him he couldn’t, but one day he would have his own “moon ride.”
I had no idea all of the work involved in the “two becoming one.” You see, although Julie and I both loved Jesus, each other, our families, and rock and roll, we soon found out we had come from two completely different parenting styles. As we began to talk about all of our differences, the big desire of our hearts was to train our children based on God’s Word more than our own family and cultural traditions.
Several months ago I wrote an article here in K! on “Developing A Biblical World View in Your Family.” In that article I wrote:
“Just like the church needs a biblical vision for reaching children, so does the family. Have you ever asked God for what He wants for your family? I realized that God designed the family to put His Word into future generations. So if God gives us the desires of our hearts, what is your desire and goals for your children? For me, I wanted our family to be close. I wanted them to love the Lord with all their heart and love the Word. In fact, I wanted them to love the Bible so much that it was what they based every choice in their life on.”
Julie and I believed the Bible was and still is the benchmark for how we should view the world and how we should live. The Bible tells us we are in the world but we are not of the world. The Bible also tells us to come out of the world and be separate, yet we are told to be salt and light to the world. Over the years, I have studied families and the different ways they parent. I’ve also studied churches and the different ways they do church. The families and churches who have the greatest success are the ones who have teamed together to join their forces to develop individuals with a biblical view of how to live 24/7.
I have had the wonderful honor of raising two wonderful daughters. They are both successful, not only in business, but also in their spiritual walk. My girls are as different as night and day; if I had not been in the delivery room with both of them, I would not believe they were kin. I had to discipline them differently. I have to communicate and instruct them differently. But when it comes down to making choices about how to live, it was the same for them as it was for their mother and I, and that was, “What does the Bible say?”
There are lots of voices that speak into our lives, voices that challenge a biblical world view. As a parent and as a pastor, I cannot block out every voice that speaks to my family and to my congregation, nor should I. But, I’ve spent my life pointing out that God’s Word contains truth and the truth of the Word is what will set us free. God’s Word is the filter we should view the world through! When we take captive every thought and make it obedient to the Word of God, it produces right thinking that creates right actions. Our actions come from our thinking. That’s why we have to be intentional about the voices we listen to and the actions we take, regardless of our age. When my children were small, we limited the voices and the traditions we planted in our children. Just because a movie or TV show was animated or geared for children, didn’t mean we allowed our children to feed on it.
This led us to the big question: What were we going to do about mythical traditions?
Julie and I both grew up in Christian households. Both of our families attended church on a regular basis. Our parents also told us both about the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. We both grew up watching all the Disney fairy tale movies and reading traditional children’s books. When Julie and I found out that our parents were really Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy, it affected us differently. Julie just kind of went along as long as her parents wanted to play the game. I, on the other hand, felt betrayed. It also made me question whether or not Jesus was real or did they make Him up, too?
One thing Julie and I knew was we wanted to do whatever we could to help our kids know the difference between fiction and truth. We decided to do something that might not have been popular, but we felt it was what was right for us as a family. We chose to not tell them there was a tooth fairy; Daddy bought their teeth. Oh, we still to this day give our kids Easter baskets, but they don’t come from Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail; they come from Mom and Dad.
The most controversial decision we ever made was to say no to Ho Ho Ho!
We never told our girls their Christmas presents came from the North Pole or that they were made by elves. We told them the stories as stories, not as truth. The truth was their presents came from Mom and Dad with love bought with money Father God provided to us, because He loves His kids and wants us to love ours. We told our children that Father God started the whole gift giving tradition by giving the first Christmas present–His one and only Son. I don’t think our girls could have been more excited about Christmas than they were growing up. They went to bed wondering what Mom and Dad were going to give them in the same way other kids were excited about presents from Santa. Yancy would catch adults off guard when they asked what Santa was going to bring her. She would answer, “Nothing.” Those adults would look at us like we were the worst parents in the world. I’ll be honest with you, at first I was guilty of being somewhat of a Santa basher. Some of you might have heard a song I wrote for an early Puppet Trax tape that said, “Santa Claus never died for anybody’s sin and the Easter Bunny never rose again.” I remember walking through the mall around Christmas time and seeing a mall Santa. Yancy, as a very little girl, could see my attitude and said, “Dad, it’s just a man in a suit like your gorilla suit.” After that, I just took a chill pill. We did what we wanted to do–we taught our girls the difference between truth and fantasy.
My kids loved Disney. They were big Snow White fans and bigger Little Mermaid fans. They loved puppets and all my full-bodied costumes and clowns. They even had their picture made with Santa. But more than anything, my girls love Jesus. They love their parents and are very close to us. Although we are not perfect parents, we never told them a half truth, a white lie or fantasy story as a true story.
Because of this, my children believed me about Jesus. When I told them about the hurt and pain from living contrary to God’s Word, they believed me that they didn’t need to experience the pain themselves. They learned from my mistakes and believed me, because I’ve always told them the truth. When I first started working with kids in church, I learned to always keep my promises to them. I never made a promise in children’s church that I couldn’t keep. If I did that at church, I needed to do that at home.
I have no regrets for telling my kids the truth. They still look forward to Christmas and seeing what they are going to get from Mom and Dad, but greater than that, they know the reason for the season–that God’s Son became a man and dwelt among us!