Yesterday I read a blog comment that really bothered me. It didn't bother me in an offensive way, I guess I just disagree. Or maybe I just see things differently.

I write this blog entry not to argue, not to attack, but only to raise some questions. They are questions I feel are worth asking. As always, I welcome ANYONE to dialogue with me.

The comment was in reference to a photo. It was shaming an assumed violation of a child's innocence. The Comment-Giver (anonymous to me) had a very strong opinion about the preservation of innocence. I sensed a strong desire to keep a child innocent, to protect that innocence, to shelter a child from the "filth" of the world. I guess it made me wonder.....

.....What is innocence? What is the purpose of innocence? Is it always a shame when innocence is broken? What breaks innocence? Is it exposure to indulgence? Or is it indulgence itself?

We walk a fine line when it comes to protecting ourselves don't we? One step to the right and a person is sheltered from reality. One step to the left and a person is over-exposed to the ruins of life. Perhaps the easiest way to escape the stress of it is to ride the safe side and avoid any unwanted consequences. But does that make a person innocent? Or does that make a person ignorant?

Before you attack me, please understand that I am not necessarily holding an either/or opinion. I'm not advocating that we walk completely on either side. Once again...I'm just asking questions.

When I was younger I was home schooled, and then I decided I wanted to go to public high school. It really bothered me when more than one person in my church told me that I was making a sinful choice. I didn't understand. It really bothered me. I'm not a mother, but I have an incredible mother! I respect her for letting me go to public school. Yes, I WAS exposed to many things there...many disgusting things. But because I was exposed I was then able to make real educated choices. How can our choices be valid unless they are educated? And isn't interactive experience the best education?

Working so hard to preserve innocence seems to assume that consequences are always bad. I have experienced the gut-wrenching heart-aching experience of an ended dating relationship...and that is a consequence I could never NEVER regret. I have experienced the shame of involving myself in some poor choices...but because of that shame I learned about God's abundant love for me. This grace has given me an identity that shines. Paul says "What then? Shall we sin more so that grace may abound more? By no means!" But he only says that because the grace of God is so incredible, and...well....needed...because we are human.
Psalm 119.1-3 says "Blessed is he who's way is blameless. He does nothing wrong." Is that the end? That's it? Just don't do anything wrong and I'm considered blameless? If that is the case, then I guess I fully disagree with the Bible and I think it is proposing a cheap way of living.

I feel our choices need to be made in courage. How amazingly beautiful it is to see the options, interact with them, and THEN choose which way to go! How much more meaningful is a blameless life when those choices were made courageously?!

I will conclude, in my own opinion, that innocence is maintained in spite of exposure, as long as good choices are made. And perhaps innocence is redeemable? If we don't allow ourselves to choose, if we don't allow ourselves to be educated, if we don't educate our children....then we are just ignorant. I think I really believe that.

Thanks for listening.


DW said...

"I feel our choices need to be made in courage. How amazingly beautiful it is to see the options, interact with them, and THEN choose which way to go! How much more meaningful is a blameless life when those choices were made courageously?!"

I think you're closer to finding understanding than you might already think. Even Christ was said to have been temped in the wilderness, right? He wasn't sheltered in innocence, but was tempted. And he overcame, just as the Buddha did when tempted under the bodhi tree.

Fear always seems to be at the bottom of people's overconcern with preserving innocence. That and a nostalgia for the better, simpler time that never was.

I agree with you, courage to explore and face the wider unknown is the better (and more realistic) way.

Stace said...

Wow! That's awesome! I love the pics you chose also. They give a good feel to what you are trying to say.
I completely agree and feel blessed that we were given the opportunity to experience everything we did. We do have amazing parents! I do see though how people would want to keep their children from making bad choices and going through painful circumstances. I think that's a natural nurturing reaction. But I believe it can be taken too far and end up actually hurting them in the long run.
"I feel our choices need to be made in courage. How amazingly beautiful it is to see the options, interact with them, and THEN choose which way to go! How much more meaningful is a blameless life when those choices were made courageously?!" I love this paragraph of yours. It is worded so neatly. :)

paul said...

I know within me that i have a deep delight in corruption and the ruin of innocence - that darkness within me delights in seeing others fall under its spell and ruining anything that is good, pure, well formed etc. Maybe sin is an orc, lol.

I like what Jesus said to his disciples about being as innocent as doves but as shrewd as snakes as they went out into the world around them.

Withdrawal can't be the answer and corruption can't be the answer either, being constantly dragged down to the norms of our culture...

how do we learn to be shrewd, to stay in the light and to realise our own corruption?

My name is April. said...

Thanks Dave, I really appreciate your comments and the way you validate me...thanks.
Stace, yes...I think I would agree. If I ever become a mother I know it will be hard to relingquish control and to allow my children to make the same stupid mistakes I have. I suppose you want to protect them, to somehow have to skip the painful parts of growing up....
Paul, you amaze me. (And I really miss chatting with you!) How do we find that balance? What does it mean to be shrewd? Perhaps the recognition of our dark devastating desires is one step towards hope. If we didn't recognize our habits how could we ever change...or how could we ever make a real choice? We ARE human which is an amazing thing and a troubling thing isn't it?
What do you think Jesus meant by "being innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents"?

Momma Amy said...

Growing up I didn't appreciate some of the steps my parents took to protect me, but being a parent now I UNDERSTAND why they did. I don't think my parents did everything right and I think they would agree, but NO ONE does everything right.

I feel that I want to protect and teach my children while they are young and easily persuaded. For them to make the good choice they need to be taught how. I feel that is the parents job. Not preserving their innocence, (because that is just unrealistic!) but teaching them how to discern. I don't want my children to experience difficulty and heartache, but I know that is inevitable. I have to remember that God is in control and it is my job to lean on him, not try to control everything.

I feel so bad that people made you feel that the choices you made were sinful. Unless it's an outright sin like murder or something, we don't know where God is leading people. Plus, if someone does choose to sin, (which we all do at times)there will be God given consequences for them.

I think that I understand what you are saying and there doesn't seem to be a clear cut answer. I do have to say that if I am to err, I would prefer to err on the side of overprotection of my children than exposure to the realities of this sinful world too early.

That is just my little opinion and believe me I have worried about this with raising my own children and all I keep coming back to is that my husband and I are in agreement and we have soaked the decisions in prayer.

Also, in reference to that picture I have thought a lot about it and I think that the children probably had no idea what the bottles even were. Can they tell the difference between soda and alcohol bottles? My concern would be the adults behavior and ability to properly care for the little ones after consuming that amount of alcohol, but I don't know how many adults were there and if it was all in one night or a succesion of nights. So, who am I to judge them?

My name is April. said...

Wow, thanks Amy.
I'm not a parent, but I sure know that if I ever am...what a tough job!!! Of course it is an honor beyond expression, but it is a responsibility that is frightening. It is good to hear your heart and your thoughts. I can tell that you are a wonderful mother :-)
I feel like you are right. Preserving innocence is unrealistic. And yes yes yes...teaching children how to discern is so important. Maybe that's why I feel so frustrated. I think growing up I felt like my parents were judged for giving me (and my siblings) the opportunity to discern. I guess that's why the comment rubbed me the wrong way.

Seriously, thanks for your comments. I appreciate them. And I appreciate your comment that "heartache is inevitable". Yes it is! It's strange...in my own moments of extreme heartache, I think it made my heart hurt even more to know that my parent's had to watch me go through it. My heart hurt, which made my parent's heart hurt, which made my heart hurt more...what a tiresome cycle. But it's even harder when you are NOT allowed to let the hurt take its course.

Finally, I remember one thing my dad told me once. We were talking about family things and he said, "I know that you have been frustrated with certain aspects of our family. But we have tried our best...our very best efforts...to do things right. All I can hope is that you take the things you DO respect and carry them on into your own life and your own future family. Then I will know that we were good parents". I like that...and just like you said, your parents did the best they could. Now it's up to us to continue our life and continue to improve mindsets and methods. I suppose that makes them proud eh?

mtnmama said...

ahhh... maybe just to clarify one bit amy - we don't have a recycling program here. we do - but it is limited to cans and paper. instead of tossing glass we use them as planters. we crush them up for our glass garden. we save them for my brother in law who is building a bottle-house. now that he and his wife are expecting i got a kick out of thinking about that babe growing up in a 'house of sin' (as some may see it)...
after that one comment i have gone back and forth about wether or not to delete the post. not that i feel i SHOULD. but as a parent in this day and age where anything can be misread and reported, the last thing i want is for anyone to get the wrong idea.
we do drink. moderately. pat plays alot of bars and the kids and i hang out there. (at least they are smoke free now) we have explained alcohol to thayer. how it is like sugar for adults. and why we only allow a tiny bit of sugar and junk food. we have explained how so many things in life can be enjoyed and appreciated - but not good if abused... i'm trying to keep this short... knowing i should elaborate more over at mtnmama and not take up all of this space.
ape- thanks for this post,,,, love ya gal

TulipGrrl said...

And sometimes our children are introduced to ideas and realities and sin--long before we want them to be. . . It was oh-so-hard, and heartbreaking, to try to explain to our boys about their friend Zhenya, who was a streetchild. Or, why they couldn't just run on the playground--mommy had to look for sharp things first. And, roleplay what to do if they saw a used needle on the ground or playground.

Jasie said...

As usual, a wonderful thought provoking post. Got me thinking about the relationship between ignorance and innocence, and the balance between them. I think maturity is a key factor in the whole thing. I'll have to think more on it, and then try and put actual thoughts together...

The Domestic Intellectual said...

You've gotten some wonderful comments already and I don't know that I have much to add except this: I think people mistake innocence for purity and think they are interchangeable. Purity is a choice and a fruit of the spirit that comes by knowing the truth and choosing it. Innocence is a state of being rather like ignorance.... it doesn't have any especial value in and of itself and under the wrong circumstances it can be dangerous.

I agree with Amy, the biggest issue is teaching discernment and being as effective a screen as you can be until that discernment has taken root. I remember as a child being shown the horrible fruits of sin (abusive relationships, addictions, living in squalor, etc.) when I was too young to fully understand their import. However, it did make the reality of sin more real to me and made the temptation to things like pre-marital sex and drug use much less. People who shield children from seeing the fruit of sin and wrong choices out of a misguided attempt to keep them innocent longer often do them a disservice. They become naive as adolescents and adults and can stumble right into bad situations because their innocence has become ignorance.

Glad to see you blogging about these kind of topics. Christians should be talking about them more and allowing for interesting conversation and even debate.

BTW, nice blog! I am catching up on some past entries that I didn't get to read earlier:-)