Note: Throughout this year, Grace Community Church, our school’s parent ministry, is taking one passage of Scripture per week for special focus and study. In keeping with that emphasis, from time to time I’ll be writing on that passage as it pertains to education, raising kids, and life.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen. 1:1
Whatever you believe about life, as followers of Christ it is absolutely essential that we get the first few chapters of Genesis right, and teach it well to our kids. I’m not talking here about Creation narratives, although that’s important, too. What I mean is the basic ideas of what it means that our God is a Creator God, that we are beings created in His image, and how we are created. Most of what’s messed up about life is tied up in a failure to understand and live these first few chapters.
Here’s what I mean. First, Scripture tells us that we were created to walk with God, to worship Him, and to be in perfect fellowship with Him. We are worshipping beings. It is in our nature. We will not, not worship. It’s impossible. I’ve said before that it’s like a wi-fi or Bluetooth signal that you cannot turn off. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian, a Buddhist, a Mormon, a Muslim, or an atheist. You WILL worship. It’s who you are. You will always seek out someone or something to reflect back to you that you have dignity, value, worth, and that your life matters and has meaning. When you understand that, and you are saved by Christ, you know that either Christ or something else is sitting in that place of worship. And, if it’s something else (money, success, a loved one, sex, or anything) at that point in your life, all kinds of chaos, dysfunction, and lack of peace is the inevitable result. You know to repent, get that thing or person off the throne of your life and in his or its proper place, and get Jesus back up there where He belongs. If you don’t understand that, you still have the chaos, dysfunction, and lack of peace, but you don’t know why, and you don’t know what to do about it.
Here’s another. Men and women are created differently. They are separate creations, not the same creation with different plumbing. God wired their brains differently, they have different fundamental needs from each other, they express and reflect God’s image in different ways, and they relate to each other in different ways. If you get that, you’re not afraid to raise your boys to be boys and your girls to be girls. It’s okay for your boys to run around in the back yard with stick swords, putting on mock battles, because God has wired them to be protectors, and they are practicing. Allowing them to get a little beat up (not victimized, not tortured, but bruised, worn, and resilient) is a good thing, because persevering and leading one’s family through the challenges and struggles of life, having the right answers or knowing well the ONE who does, is what husbands and daddies do. Likewise, it’s okay to let girls play with dolls, to take care of their brothers and sisters, even boss them around a little, all in the name of being nurturing and relational and loving and caring. Because, when kids (girls and boys) get a skinned knee or a bruised heart, it’s mama they run to, who puts her arms around them and tells them everything is going to be all right—that’s who God made her to be. You get that God has qualities that we typically associate as masculine and feminine, and that neither of us fully image God separately, but that we more completely do it together.
If you don’t get that, if you think there’s no difference between us and that we’re the same creation, then you may be afraid to raise girls as girls and boys as boys. You think they have to be raised as the other, or they’ll be weak, or ill-equipped to face society, or bullies, or abusers. In so doing, you betray a deep misunderstanding of true manhood and womanhood as God created us, and it can lead to gender confusion, role confusion, male passivity or abuse, and female hyper-competitiveness and comparison, among other things.
God reveals that He created us in His image, to be highly complex beings. Kids and students (and adults) are not simply economic beings to be readied to be good, productive workers in society. They are not just citizens of their country or community, to be taught civic virtue so as to be good, participating members of a democratic system. They are not just technological end-users, to be taught to use technology wisely and well. Above all, they are not just our trophies, the ones who will carry on the family name and make us look good as a parent. If you don’t get that we’re image-bearers, in all of our complexity, you’ll most likely parent predominantly out of one of these domains, most of which (except the last one) aren’t necessarily bad, maybe good, but just really, really limiting. When you do understand that we’re so much more, you get that parenting complex image-bearers of God is itself really, really complex, and requires daily submission to the Lord, and daily trust in the Holy Spirit for His wisdom, guidance, and grace. We can’t do it alone; it’s an act of worship and faith.
Finally, understanding that we’re created beings means understanding that there is a God who created you; that you are not the chance “collocation of atoms,” as Bertrand Russell believed, but one lovingly crafted by the hand of an Almighty God. You, your kids, and their friends, have dignity, value, and worth, and are entitled to all the love, respect, and appreciation you can give them, subject only to the Creator Himself. Getting our beginning right helps us understand everything else that follows.