"Daddy, when I grow up I'm gonna be a fighter!"
That was a statement that one of my sons boldly declared recently. The statement caught me off guard, but I must admit that as a father it made me proud. But it also made me realize that is was an opportunity to teach. Not just my son, but also my daughter who sat all curled up next to me, so I seized that opportunity.
My three-and-a-half-year-old son Eli, had asked to watch Narnia for a week. Now some people might say that a child his age shouldn't watch a movie like that, and generally I would agree. In fact, there is not much that passes through our parental filter. However The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of the few exceptions. There are just so many great teaching points, and truthfully, it stimulates conversation. This movie in particular seems to generate tons of questions inside their little minds, and allows us to have dialog. It was a movie that I really enjoyed watching with them, and it had been a while since our last watching, so it was a reasonable request. I agreed that we would watch it Saturday morning.
So my daughter and my son, our oldest two, snuggled up with me on the couch as we prepared to visit Narnia once more. Our adventure was pretty typically with many of the typical comments and questions, but as we got the the final battle my son made one remark that caused me to push pause. As he joined in the battle against the White Witch's army with his imaginary sword, he shouted, "Daddy, when I grow up I am gonna be a fighter!"
It was cute, it was innocent, and I beamed with pride as any dad would. But I also knew that it was my responsibility to once again try to share with my kids that things like war and battle, while they may seem exciting, are not games. In the simplest terms I explained that it can be fun to watch movies like this, but that in real life, war is not pretty, and that it means real people get hurt. My daughter understood this, but did he?
So we started talking. He explained to me that we don't want to hurt people, but that the White Witch is really about the devil, so we have to fight her. He understood the concept of good versus evil, and that he wanted to fight for good, against that evil. I was pretty surprised that he was able to grasp the association made in the books and movies, so well. He was right, but the dialog couldn't stop there.
My sons and my daughter understood that in their life, they would indeed need to be fighters. That they have a responsibility to stand for that which is good and true. Many people choose to raise their children different ways, but we try our best do follow Joshua 24: 14-15.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Of course we won't do everything right, but will will raise our kids to understand how much God loves them. As they grow older and experience more of the love He has for them, it will become easy for them to choose to serve and honor Him, because He has first loved them. Ultimately it by their own desire to serve their Father. And by knowing Him intimately, they will understand how to serve Him. Until that day comes, it is up to us to teach them what it means to serve God, and what it means to do battle against the things in the world that oppose Him. We must teach them what it means to be fighters. We talked about how we fight. We fight with love, truth, and prayer. I explained how we cannot be afraid to stand upon the truth of the Word of God, but that we must submit to Jesus's teachings in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27 where we are instructed to do the unthinkable, to love our enemies.
My three-and-a-half-year-old son and my almost-six-year-old daughter seemed to get it. It won't always be easy for them to walk it out, but at least they get it. As a father, my masculine nature was proud when my son said, "Daddy, when I grow up I am gonna be a fighter," But I am far more proud, that he knows and wants to forgive and pray for those that hurt him, making him a true fighter.