1 ¶ Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. Hebrews 2:1 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Well, it has finally happened, and I’m shocked it came so soon. Susan and I have officially become “old geezers.” Up until this point, we’ve always cringed whenever we heard people talk about how much better things were back in “the Good Old Days” when they were kids. But we’ve crossed the boundary now. We used to be cool. Now we’re “codgers”.
Let me tell you how it happened. Last Sunday night, Susan, Seth, and I drove into town to see the “Living Nativity Scene”. It was presented by the Newton United Methodist Church, where Spencer’s girlfriend Madeline is a member. (Madeline was cast as an angel in the program—a part that Susan and I think she is well-suited to play in real life. Spencer was a shepherd, which was not nearly as good casting. We don’t really see him as the sheep-tending type.) The congregation had done a wonderful job of recreating the events from Luke’s gospel. There were realistic costumes and sets, complete with live farm animals and beautiful Christmas carols.
The sights and sounds of the reenactment of God’s perfect plan warmed our hearts. It wasn’t until we started home that Susan mentioned something else she’d noticed. As we drove through the panorama, all the parents were raptly attentive to the glory of the nativity. But, all of their children were watching DVD players in the backseats of their parents’ SUV’s.
I realized that we’re getting older as I found myself agreeing with what Susan was saying: “Child-rearing sure has changed since we were children,” she said. “Of course, our parents didn’t have backseat DVD players to keep us occupied. They hadn’t been invented yet. But even if they had been available back then, I’m not sure if our parents would’ve bought them. Parents didn’t feel the obligation to keep their kids entertained all the time. It was their job to provide shelter, clean clothing, and hot meals for children. It was up to us to entertain ourselves and make ourselves happy.”
Susan continued on her rant: “Do you know that my mom (as a single parent) drove us four kids in a car by herself from California to Arkansas? Isn’t that amazing? She didn’t have anything electronic in our car to help insure our good behavior. Instead, if you didn’t act right, she pulled the car over and broke off a switch to ‘give you a whipping’!
I’m sure it was a hard trip for us all—but I have very happy memories of those days. I’m not against technology. But kids can stop watching Spongebob long enough to see Baby Jesus!”
Now, even though Susan and I are complaining about “this newfangled generation” please don’t think we’re condemning parents who have a video player setup in their vehicle. That’s really no different than having a radio or CD player in one’s car. And no one is proposing that we all become Amish. But something I think we all realize is that we have to make some hard decisions about how the media is going to impact our lives. As Christians, how are we going to use the electronic devices that demand so much attention in our daily lives?
I’ve outlined a few guidelines that may prove helpful:
- Moderation is the key. We must find the balance between our children being culturally illiterate outcasts (with no expose to media) and them becoming “mush brains” (video-savvy with no common sense.) “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Proverbs 3:1)
- Don’t use constant entertainment to shield your kids from all difficulties and painful situations. Sooner or later they’ll have to deal with reality. They need to develop some coping skills.
- Don’t shield your children from all boredom. In earlier generations, most of the time there was “nothing to do.” Monotony prompted children to use their imaginations to make their own fun. Most of the creativity in the world is born out of restlessness.
- Remember electronic media in its various forms was given to us for recreation and a diversion—not as an escape from reality. If we are always living “in our heads” we miss opportunities to show love for God and for our neighbors. We all have to “unplug” sometimes if we ever hope to accomplish anything for the Lord.
Dear mama, we all must seek wisdom from the Lord as we strive to raise our little ones in His way. The virtual world is interesting. But the real world that the Lord made is indescribably beautiful and full of riches that need to be explored. And God’s world is full of good deeds that need to be done. Let’s get busy doing them.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the children sometimes play Nintendo, and sometimes play in the mud ) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.