I’ve opened my Facebook page this morning to a torrent of status updates and posted articles in response to a famous young lady in the media who seems to have bared her skin for all the world to see, amongst other things. I haven’t looked up the details of it and I’m sure I don’t need to – she is sadly swept up in cultural machinery that has a twisted and unredeemed perspective of the natural, God-designed purpose of women. Her story is like many others who are trying to piece together their identity and sense of self worth during an impressionable time in their lives, and in a time where waves of confusing messages are flying from every quarter (and yes, from Christian circles as well).
A few months back I saw a similar eruption of outrage in conservative circles in response to a new line of lingerie for teenagers. The finger was pointed at marketers, at profit-driven companies, and at pop culture in general – although I don’t recall reading anything about the fact that they were meeting an apparent consumer demand.
I would like to suggest that socialisation of our daughters begins earlier than when they hit their teens. And I’d also like to suggest that the media and mass marketing campaigns aren’t solely to blame for attempting to entice our daughter’s with their products and carefully constructed and targeted campaigns. They offer to fill the hunger within our daughters hearts with a poor substitute of the real thing – a life fulfilled, a heart connected to their Creator, a sense of hope and purpose, and a pure love undefiled.
The responsibility lies in our hands as parents, as we alone are charged with training them up in the way they should go. What we choose to bring into our homes, expose our young children to, and what we teach them about ourselves, lays the foundation for how easily this ‘stuff’ will take in their lives. If we teach them about true beauty (and not just the Christianised version of worldly beauty), about self-respect, about turning the affections of their hearts towards the Lord, and knit within them a worldview that is completely contrary to that of this world, they won’t find refuge and meaning in the counterfeit version.
What fruit can we expect to become visible in their lives as teenagers when we flood our young daughters with princess paraphernalia when they’re young? Or cupboards full of plastic pink and glitzy things, masses of DVDs that fuel a desire to be like a fictional character, and so many toys and stuff that they never get around to playing with it all, let alone valuing what they have?
An example: do you know there are over 26,000 Disney princess products that are marketed with our daughters in mind? Have you ever stopped and looked at the alluring expressions on their faces and wondered if they are suitable role models for your daughters? I could list off some of the other products but I think you get my drift. When we don’t intentionally make these choices as to what our values are going to be in this area, and as a result what our purchases are going to be, we are already getting carried in the cultural drift and leaving parenting up to profit-driven companies.
I fear that Christian culture has oftentimes mirrored popular culture, as we have our own versions of pink bibles with fake jewels on the cover, little crowns with fluffy edges, and even the more subtle products that teach our daughters to be ‘God’s little princesses’. When I return to the bible as my ultimate source of direction, I don’t find this as the most important thing to teach my daughters. I believe it’s the unbalanced over-emphasis of this aspect that sets our daughter’s up with an appetite to be admired for how they look rather than who they are. I also think they can potentially have a sense of entitlement that will remain unsatisfied unless they take matters into their own hands.
I’m asking myself how to best give my girls an appetite for God’s presence in their lives, and to lay a foundation where they are sure of who they are and the difference they can make if they live out God’s purpose for their lives. Loving Him and loving others needs to be modelled in our home. It means changes to my own life and not simply rhetoric where my actions don’t support my instruction. It means modelling and encouraging the affections of their hearts in a direction that is pure, excellent and truthful (Phil 4:8). The temptations of the world don’t need to pull greatly on their hearts if their needs are already met via heavens best.
I note that Jesus himself was tempted with food when he was hungry. Temptation comes in those areas where we are weak and vulnerable. We can fortify their hearts with the truth about beauty, and about their God-given purpose to walk in purity and goodness. I pray that my girls are so satisfied in Him that they simply have no appetite for the world’s alternative.
As I take a hard but honest look at my heart in this, I recognise that my driver at times, to ‘give the kids what I didn’t have’ is sometimes askew – what they really need isn’t more stuff and more comfort. It’s to know that in all circumstances we can offer ourselves to the Lord and He will bring increase and life through our obedience to His ways. It’s to be sure about who they are in Him, and the hope that is found in Him alone.