Red or Blue Pill. Which will you choose? As a Christian parent, you have a choice. If you take the blue pill, you can just close this post right now. Nothing ever changes. You go on believing what you want to believe. Life and parenting feels like it always has for you. But, if you take the red pill, you will fully digest this post. You will see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You may be familiar with this pivotal crisis point in the first Matrix movie as Keanu Reeve’s character “Neo” faced a life-altering choice for truth (red) or illusion (blue). Such is the state of today’s Christian parenting. Which will you choose? I pray you choose the red pill and raise the banner of #IBNO. More about that later.
Life Inside the Cocoon
I am a Christian parent of two. I have an adult son, Quilan, who recently turned 23 and a teenage daughter, Kyrsten, who is 16. And, for most of their lives, I have done my very best to keep them in a cocoon. Yes, more specifically, a Christian cocoon. You may be familiar with it—maybe even have your own membership card.
Personally, I liked the cocoon because it felt like a safe place for a nice Christian family like mine. After all, there is a biblically-derived code, sometimes unspoken, other times explicit, that everyone is supposed to follow. And, I’m a good rule-follower—always have been.
The cocoon collective affirms those like me who follow its life script. The script goes something like this. Do well in school. Stay out of trouble with the law. Don’t have sex before marriage. Be happily married. Stay faithful to your spouse for a lifetime. Be a productive member of society. Regularly attend and support your local church. Produce little cocoon children. And, the #1 cocoon rule, love God and neighbor (at least cocoon-approved ones) with all your heart.
I grew up as a pastor’s kid. So, I’ve always lived in the cocoon.
Following their understanding of the 2 Corinthians 6:17 edict to “come out from them [unbelievers]”, my well-meaning cocoon parents said, “no parties”, “no secular music”, “no dancing”, “no sex before marriage”, and “no drugs or alcohol”. For me the cocoon felt like an island—isolating me from everything bad. Protecting me. Helping me find Jesus. Stamping my passport to heaven when the time would come. I understood, accepted, and even welcomed its language and its rhythm.
At the age of 18, I launched from my parents. But, I remained a proud card-carrying member of the cocoon. It was, after all, what I thought made me a Christian. It was my proof that I had indeed “come out from among them”. Now, all I had to do was to find a community of other card carriers like myself. Everything would be just fine. Or, so I thought. Until I faced those who didn’t follow the script.
I was lost.
The cocoon had not prepared me to empathically engage single mothers, sexually-abused children, clinically depressed believers, gay Christians, adulterous pastors, abortion advocates, or atheists, to name a few. I hate to admit it. But, even when I saw Christian kids making moves away from the cocoon, I tacitly wondered what were those parents doing wrong. That thinking was turned upside down when my own child got in legal trouble.
So, anyway, with few exceptions, I chose to stay away from them all—particularly during my young adult years. After all, I had to be careful lest I stray from the cocoon.
Even after marrying, we looked for cocoon couples like ourselves for our inner circle.
For most of my life, I’ve sensed a calling to make a big difference in the world. But, sadly, for years, I think my dream was defined by and limited to the cocoon.
Of course, the saddest part of all is that the cocoon isn’t God’s design or plan. It’s a human device—helping us separate, as if we actually have keys to the kingdom, who does and doesn’t belong in the community of faith.
The biblical passage of 2 Timothy may best describe the dark side of the Christian cocoon as having “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).
I, like many of you, love Jesus. But, is a cocoon mindset diminishing (like kryptonite to Superman) Christ’s power in your life and those you are supposed to influence?
IBNO: A Truthful Perspective on Christian Parenting
“It is the nature of man to pursue greatness if that is what is expected of him.” – John Steinbeck
One of the most important responsibilities that I have at this stage of my life is developing my children. I take it very seriously. As Steinbeck’s quote posits, I want them to pursue greatness. So, that is what I expect of them.
I tell them that they are leaders in their generation. I instruct them to do something every week that pushes them out of their comfort zone. I encourage them to think entrepreneurially. The list goes on.
But, the most important lesson that I hope to communicate to my children is to pursue greatness by living in obedience to God’s (not the cocoon’s) word.
I don’t want them to see their greatness as limited to the cocoon as I did for so many years. I want them to know without a shadow of a doubt that God has sent them into the WORLD as evidenced in the passage from the Apostle John.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-18)
It is from this passage that we Christians have culled the often heard phrase to be “in the world, but not of the world”. I capture this thought as “IBNO“.
One’s interpretation of this phrase is largely contingent upon how “in” and “of” are defined.
The cocoon mindset interprets “in” as a passive term that essentially is just coexistence. Alternatively, “not of” is seen as the active phrase that means to withdraw from the world. From this perspective, you’re left with the message to simply coexist in this life without succumbing to its increasingly ungodly values.
But, I believe Christ is giving us far deeper instruction—guidelines which have implications for how we rear our children to advance the kingdom themselves. For me, IBNO suggests “in the world” and “not of the world” are active phrases. This John passage clearly says that Christ has SENT them into the world. But, it also clearly says that our prayers are for their protection in there. Christ specifically says that he doesn’t pray for them to be cocooned (out of the world).
Yes, in some respects, it is scarier for us parents because it exposes our children (age-appropriately) to people and situations whole values don’t exactly align with our own. But, it also liberates them to engage the world in a more truthful and loving way.
In obedience to this John 17 passage, I’ve developed five lessons that I believe we Christian parents are responsible for demonstrating and transmitting to our young and even adult children. As in most parenting lessons, these are habits that are better caught than taught. In other words, we parents have to consistently show them to our children.
Lesson #1: Believe in something bigger than yourself (v. 18)
God has created a grand system designed to bring glory unto himself. Life isn’t about you. Don’t be self-centered. It is about Him. Glorifying and worshipping Him. But, though Christ, you will have an awesome life that will bring meaning to you and many people with whom you come into contact. This is not our final home. One day, we will go to spend eternity with Him and all those who have chosen this path.
Lesson #2: Be true to yourself and if everyone likes you, something is wrong (v. 14)
Don’t try to be like everyone else. Look for your unique voice. Surround yourself with people who help you craft your unique voice. Ultimately, your voice will be about bring glory to God. So, if it seems as if everyone seems to like you. You are probably not allowing your voice to truly reflect its creator.
Lesson #3: Your real adversary is not of this world (v15)
The cocoon makes you feel as if other people are your enemies. They aren’t. God loves them as much as He loves you. There is no difference. People who don’t share our faith are no less loved by God. So, they should be no less loved by you. Though you have to be careful with what situations you put yourself in. In age-appropriate ways, be comfortable being who you are around them. Some of them will accept you. Some of them won’t. But, don’t think of them as your enemy. The real enemy is Satan. He seeks to kill, steal, and destroy you and them. He seeks to make you and them feel like you are each other’s enemy. That is a lie.
Lesson #4: There is a such thing as absolute Truth (v. 17)
You will increasingly face a world that espouses relativism. They want you to think that everyone has his own truth. For them, truth is relative. Many have disdain for the idea that there is an absolute truth (never mind that they stick their foot in their mouth by suggesting that “there is no absolute truth” as an absolute truth. But, we won’t go there). But, we believe in God’s word, the Bible, as absolute truth. Yes, it has cultural assumptions from its authors. But, it represents God’s heart for His people. It connects us to the Holy Spirit. It leads and guides our authentic interaction with each other.
Lesson #5: You have a supernatural mission (v. 18)
God designed you with specific gifts to play a role in His grand story. No one can do what you can do. Your mission comes from God himself. You are empowered by His Spirit to be a leader in your generation. And, you will be at your most joyous when you are doing just that. You mission is to engage everyone who will respectfully accept who you are. Show them Christ. For some of them, you can show them a Bible. But, for most of them it will be simply showing them your life. Be consistent in your faith. If you fall, get up. When they fall, help them up. Look for ways to be a redemptive person in the lives of others. And, don’t be afraid to offer the reason for your faith.
So, there you have my five IBNO parenting lessons. I’m glad that you chose the red pill. But, the rabbit hole doesn’t end here. I pray that it starts a movement #IBNO. Use that hashtag on all of your social media channels. Tell your friends.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and let me know where it takes you and your children.