This blog post was adapted from chapter two of Dr. Larry Taylor’s book, “Running with The Horses.”
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)
The end of Jeremiah 12:5 describes thickets surrounding the Jordan River. The prophet Jeremiah would have immediately known that the thickets were deep, dark, and wild. Amidst the brambly trees and brush, lions and other predatory beasts lurked, awaiting the unsuspecting traveler.
Let’s apply this analogy to the current culture of the United States. What do the thickets represent? I realize that the thickets facing our children are more intense as they grow older. Indeed the obvious vices of the world will forever pose a sincere threat of entanglement to our youth culture-drugs, alcohol, and a culture that has saturated itself with a sensual and sexual nature.
However, perhaps there are more potent influencers in the cultural thickets. False ideas. How in the world could false ideas be on the same level of destruction as drugs or alcohol? Maybe this comment by the late philosopher Dr. Richard Rorty, University of Virginia, can provide insight. Rorty states:
Secular professors in the universities ought to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own. We are going to go right on trying to discredit you [parents] in the eyes of our children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.
There are “Dr.Rortys” in every university. I strongly believe that we need to prepare our sons and daughters to sit in the Dr.Rorty-led classrooms at the university-to thrive in the thickets. Our goal as parents should be to produce Acts 17 disciples; children who thrive in the thickets.
What is an Acts 17 disciple? Other than imitating Christ, as Paul encouraged us to do in Ephesians 5:1, we should aspire to imitate the apostle Paul as described in Ephesians five. In fact, these characteristics should be prevalent in all of our training paradigms found in the home, churches, and educational institutions.
Notice Paul did not retreat. He did not remain silent. He did not allow the intimidating environment of the city of Athens to send him back to the comfort of the foot race at church where everyone rallied around a similar belief system. Paul reasoned and persuaded with some of the brightest minds and thinkers of the day-the Dr.Rortys. Paul was a clear illustration of one thriving in the thickets.
Late adolescence has been historically placed in the age range of eighteen to twenty-two and characterized by adolescents’ tendency to explore their worldview and religious beliefs and critically analyze their parents’ beliefs.
These characteristics have been supported by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), which claims that twenty-three percent of entering freshman in the fall of 2004 labeled themselves seekers, and that over fifty percent of them have different views on spiritual and religious matters than their family members.
It is interesting to observe that precisely when our children are entering the university, they are also entering a phase of exploration of their own belief system and worldview. The one thing on which we all agree is the importance of transmitting a biblical worldview to the next generation.
The university might seem too far away to begin worrying about your child walking away from our faith. However, I am proposing to you that parents should consider being more intentional in their training long before their children reach this age.