If you’ve been watching the news at all, you know that Josh Duggar, son of TV reality stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, has admitted to a lot of really bad things—pornography, adultery, and sexual abuse to name just a few.
I don’t want to try to analyze his life, or that of his parents. I’m not here today to critique choices they’ve made, or plant myself firmly in one camp or another about any of the various issues surrounding this heartbreaking case. I don’t know the Duggars. I don’t know Josh. And even though they put their lives on display for the world to see, I know there are still plenty of things they haven’t shared that make them so much more than what we see on TV.
There’s always more to the story—good and bad—and that alone ought to make us choose our words carefully.
But I have been thinking a lot about the Duggars—Josh, Michelle, and Jim Bob in particular—because I have two young sons (ages 8 and 10), and one of my greatest desires is to keep them pure. Believe me friends, in a world where exposure to evil is more at our fingertips than ever before, it’s no small task.
I know the Duggars shared my desire to keep their son safe, but somehow it didn’t work. Any discerning parent has to look at the situation and ask, “why? What went wrong? Where was the breakdown?”
I can’t speculate about what went wrong in their family, and I won’t. But I will allow their circumstances to make me take a long, hard look at my own efforts. Sometimes the best way we can learn is by watching others struggle, and for that reason, I’m glad the Duggars are still allowing us into theirs.
My family has some things in common with the Duggars—traditional, biblical values, a desire to please the Lord with our lives, and generally a counter-cultural way of viewing all of life. We also homeschool, and for a long time I thought doing this for my boys would provide a deeper level of protection against some of the evils of this world. In some ways, especially when they’re younger and more oblivious, it does, and I do have a little more control over what they see, hear, and participate in—even the friends they hang out with—at least for this stage of life.
But I learned this summer that I can’t protect them from everything.
Just at the pool alone, my boys saw women dressed in less than bikinis, were bullied and made to feel uncool by peers, learned several new curse words (and even informed me that calling them “curse” words is uncool…apparently I have to start calling them “cuss” words), became dissatisfied with the way we do things as they were exposed to other families, and made friends with people whose influence caused them to question mine (it was a doozy of a summer).
Why do I tell you all this?
Because this summer served as an eye-opener for me regarding what little control I actually have. As a result, my prayer for them has changed from, “Lord, keep them from evil,” to, “Lord, help them stand in the face of evil,” and to be able to stand in the face of evil, they have to know Jesus.
There is NOTHING our children need more than Jesus. We can put them in the best schools, best athletic programs, best churches…we can buy them the best clothes, use the best internet filters, screen everything they watch and hear, and only allow them to hang out with kids from good families, but none of these things guarantee protection of their purity. Only life-transforming relationship with Jesus can empower them to choose a path different from that of the world. Only the Holy Spirit working in their hearts and cleansing their minds can keep them safe. Only God can change their hearts and give them the desire to stay pure.
And if they don’t have a desire to stay pure, they won’t.
My fear is that the church has done an excellent job of smacking hands—telling kids and parents what the boundaries are and how to avoid them—and a terrible job of actually teaching parents how to reach our children’s hearts about the issue of purity. As parents, we’ve allowed the church’s programs and even sometimes extra-biblical doctrine on the subject to be all our kids get, and assumed it was enough. It isn’t.
Nothing can change a child’s heart apart from the life-changing work of God. My friend Gina Smith said it this way: “Not homeschooling. Not outward conformity. Not courtship. Not “purity” until marriage. Not a good job. Not self-righteousness. Not looking good. Not celebrity. Not fame. Not money. Not positions….”
We have to stop focusing on the right program, the right perspective, the right behaviors, and start focusing on their hearts, because the only way to keep from and overcome sin is to love Jesus more than we love our sin.
Do your boys love Jesus?
Do you talk about Jesus in your home?
Do you pray together, talk about deep issues of the faith together, read the Bible together, and apply it to your daily lives?
Do you talk about sin, and allow your children’s sinful choices to bring natural consequences?
Do you give them tools for the spiritual battle they’re in even as children? Do they know who they are in Christ?
Do you create an atmosphere of open communication? Or unintentionally shame them into never coming to you when they have questions?
Do you let the Bible inform your life so that your children can see you living it out?
If our boys don’t love Jesus, they will love the things of the world. If our boys don’t love Jesus, they will adopt the world’s philosophies instead of ours. If our boys don’t love Jesus they won’t be able to stand in the day of evil. Therefore, the fight we should be in is the one for their hearts, praying daily for God to take them and make them his, whatever it takes.
The farther I get into this parenting gig, the more I truly believe these things matter so much more than which school they go to, what career path they choose, or which program we use to teach them about purity. We have to give them Jesus. We have to live Jesus. We have to prove with our lives that loving and trusting him is the very best, the biggest adventure, and that every other way pales in comparison, no matter how much time and sacrifice it takes. Do I believe homeschooling is one good option for educating children? Yes, and I’ll do it as long as God calls me to. Are there certain studies my family uses to guide our conversations about purity with our sons? Yes, and I love sharing them with you. Should we continue to seek God for the decisions we make about our children’s lives? Yes, and amen.
But we can’t only do those things. We also have to live out our love for Jesus, so our kids can see how truly amazing life with him is. We have to care less about what they look like or how they behave on the outside, and more about what’s happening on the inside. We have to make every effort to make it easy for them to fall in love with Jesus, and pray like the dickens for them to follow him.
If you’re looking for some tools to help you make these changes in your life, may I recommend these books? I’ve read a lot of books about raising boys, and these are some of my personal favorites that have led me to the way of thinking reflected in this post. Just click here to see my recommendations.
P.S. This isn’t meant to be a critique of what Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar did or didn’t do in their parenting. Only a thought-provoking discussion based on how we can learn from what happened.