I’m asking the questions that cause their cheeks to flush and their eyes to roll. They really have no concept of what I’m asking, they can only imagine with their naïve minds what those situations might be like. They don’t even have ideas or images projected from movies that would help form a picture. Currently, all they know about these broken situations is from these little intentional conversations I initiate. But the discomfort or embarrassment is inherent in these questions because sinful humanity still hides it’s nakedness.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have been afraid that someone might hurt you? Or do something to you that you wouldn’t like?
Has a stranger or anyone you know tried to be alone with you in a way that made you feel unconfortable?
Has anyone (even a sibling, friend, uncle, parent) ever done anything inappropriate with your body or theirs in front of you? Or have you done something inappropriate with your body in front of a friend or sibling?
The questions come out different each time, but they’re some form of the above. I try not to make the conversation super serious. I keep it as comfortable as possible. Safe. And in these moments I always remind my children that they can tell me anything. Their fears, their failures. Their embarrassments, their hurts. Their violations, their sins. And I will always be an environment of grace for them.
Oh, I have my moments when I’m not. Lots of them! Where they spill in carelessness or hurt a sibling or respond with disrespect…and I react with frustration and anything but grace. But in moments where I ask for them to reveal, or they willingly come to me to expose a part of their heart, I will be their safe place. I will offer grace. Always.
These moments of asking never fail to open the door to deeper trust. The conversation takes us to different places each time as they explore their curiosity and test my openness. I learn about stories they’ve heard. I hear about innocent conversations they’ve had with friends. I get questions that demand me to explain broken scenarios that steal a little more of their ignorance.
I don’t ask because I suspect. I ask because if I don’t, how will I ever know? And how will they know they can talk to me about such things?
Mark and I have created emotionally safe environments for our children to grow in wisdom and stature. We keep them close. So their early stumbles are nearby to those who long to pick them up or help them stand. So their first soul wounds are prayed over and nursed to healing, rather than becoming deeps scars in their personality or self worth. We limit their exposure to certain media. Instead, we flood them with truthful messages and loving people. These years, while their self esteems are fragile, while their fleeting innocence is sought after. These years, while they’re learning whom they can trust. While they’re figuring out how to respond to their emotions of sadness, anger, frustration and attraction. While they’re learning how to choose, and what tempts them, what encourages them. These years — these momentary, treasured, impressionable years — are spent mostly at home…where grace flourishes and is building them strong.
Don’t get me wrong, we take risks in this family. But we take them together. Our children have witnessed and experienced a broken world in our journey of community, ministry and adoption. But we face it together. My hope is that we’re shaping confident children, secure in who they are, available to who God wants them to be. That one day they will, with genuine bravery, step outside of this family, to take risks of their own.
But even though I keep my children close, I know I can’t protect them from sin, or broken people. It happens in them and around them, the very realities from which we teach God’s story of redemption. We’re thankful for those opportunities to show them humanity’s need – their need — for a savior. The awkward questions I ask every six months or so are still important, even for those of us who feel we’ve constructed safe places for our children to grow and commune. For these violations of body and youth can happen anywhere. Even in safe places. So the asking opens the door to honesty and it builds trust.
Environments of grace pursue truth. They actively shape safe moments for honest exposures of the heart. And since I want to be an environment of grace, I’m asking the questions….are you?