“We owe it to our kids to give them a healthy dose of dark stories.”
That was the premise of an article I read recently by children’s author N.D. Wilson in Christianity Today magazine. He calls out us adults who instinctively raise an eyebrow at such ideas. In the same way a health food nut reads a food label looking for signs of high fructose corn syrup, l have become accustomed to looking through what my kids read and watch for any signs of… darkness. I’m sensitive to it. I want them to be sensitive to it as well. But not sheltered from it.
We took a trip to Disney World last year and tried out the Haunted Mansion ride. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to go very well, but at the same time, I didn’t want them to be afraid of a silly ride, so we went. My poor (6 year old at the time) came off with tears in his eyes. The ghost in the mirror at the end put him over the edge. I felt bad. There were plenty of kids smaller than him who were loving it. (Did I really want him to love it though?) Fast forward a year – he gets to go back with his dad. They went on the ride again. This time, he came off, completely unfazed, and said that he wasn’t scared. He also said that he didn’t want to go do it again because “there are too many dark things on that ride.”
Yes! Small victory. We aren’t fearful of it but we recognize it for what it is. It’s a silly ride, perfectly fine for many, many people. He was able to share with his dad that it wasn’t good for his spirit and he didn’t like the way it made him feel. God revealed to me how I need to pray this as they grow. When faced with darkness or things that aren’t edifying for them, Lord give them the courage and discernment to walk away. Even if no one else does.
There’s a proliferation of pure evil in our culture today, it’s bold and shocking. I am stunned at times by what I see on TV. Evil for the sake of it. People flock to it. They run after the darkness.
And then theres the flip side.
Pretending there is no darkness, ignoring that conflict exists altogether.
Raising kids in a conflict-free, criticism-free bubble doesn’t do anyone any favors. They’re going to fall down. They’re going to get teased. They’re going to make mistakes. I read about a school that banned the game of tag because it was dangerous. Lord help us.
“Shelter your children. Yes. Absolutely. But use a picnic shelter, not a lightless bomb bunker, and not virtual reality goggles looping bubblegum clouds. They should feel the wind and fear the lightning.”
My boys are transitioning now. We watch Star Wars and I don’t freak out worrying what it may be doing to them. Instead, we have conversations about why Anakin chose evil over good. The Bible is full of stories like this. What would David be without Goliath? What would the story of Daniel be without man-eating lions? In order to be brave, they need an understanding of danger.
In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’, the young boy Eustace is raised on a steady diet of information-only books. He was utterly bankrupt when it came to discernment or feelings. When he walked smack into enemy territory, he didn’t even know it.
“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.” C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Straight into a dragon’s lair because he had been fed all the wrong information. He had been sheltered from the adventure, protected from all things dangerous, and as a result, didn’t even know when he was face to face with disaster. How tragic if we fail to show our children both sides of the adventure that surrounds us every day. There are crazy, wicked enemies out in the world and there is danger. We all need to be able to recognize the dragon’s face. Most importantly, we need to be able to recognize and call upon our Aslan, our Roaring Lion, our Jesus.
“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” C.S. Lewis
We all need to be reading the right books.