I hate to do this, but let me begin with a disclaimer: I have never seen “The Duggars.” I know they have a TV show about them raising a bunch of kids. I have never watched it. Not once. Partly because I do not have cable. Partly because I have enough to do without watching someone else who has plenty to do. And partly because if I do watch TV I want it to be a slight escape from a life of raising and homeschooling numerous children. So everything I am about to say is based entirely on ignorance. But as you will see, that may actually help.
What I do know is this: I am not surprised.
Whoa, wait a minute. Not surprised? Is that because I always thought these people were a bunch of hypocrites? No. Am I not shocked because I think the way they raise their kids destined this? No. As I said, I don’t know these people, don’t watch their show.
The reason I am not surprised is this: Sin gets in.
No matter all the other stuff circulating around this (liberal against conservative, homeschooling and public schooling, bunch of kids versus a small family, and a billion other things) one fact is inescapable: Sin gets in.
You can’t hide from sin. Homeschooling isn’t the problem, sin is. Just as public schooling isn’t the problem, sin is. Sin is a power, a force that is relentless. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek better ways to do things. We should. Ideas should be weighed against others. Studies assessed. But the ultimate reality we sometimes refuse to face head on is this: Sin doesn’t stop because we do things well. No matter what our version of “well” is.
A government program can rearrange who has the money, but it can’t destroy greed. A family can shelter their kids from the media, but lust finds ways in. Background checks and bathroom buddies may help, but they aren’t foolproof. No, at some point we all must face the truth; sin finds a way.
I wish it was otherwise. That the perfect blend of psychology, sociology, laws, etc…could form some sort of shield. I long for a magic formula. If you will make sure your kids don’t watch this movie or hang out with that person, everything will be honky-dory. It simply doesn’t exist.
In response, some of us have decided to build a fort. To shelter our kids and families. To try to keep sin out with lots of rules and regulations. We live in fear of our kids being exposed to the wrong people. I understand that fear. It recognizes the power of sin. But often that fear which so gets the power of sin, doesn’t recognize the power of God. It is often empowered by the belief that doing enough things the right way somehow makes me ineligible for the bad stuff. But it doesn’t. And often those who have bought this fort mentality implode when sin finds a way through the back door.
But others have tried another route. Since sin gets in, then we can do nothing, and we do almost nothing. We give in to the notion that sin is unstoppable, so why try. This comes out in phrases like, “Well, teens are gonna have sex, nothing you can do.” Or, “She’s just a teenage girl, that’s how they act.” Or even, “He’s in the Terrible Two’s”. All of these ways of discussing people, especially children, assume the worst in people. They are animals who can’t control themselves. All you can hope to do is survive the calamities they will surely bring. Life becomes about “managing” our sin and the sin of others. It leaves us not only cynical, but unwilling to even attempt to live in a holy or pure way.
This may all sound so very defeatist. Like what’s the point. Just let whatever happens happen. You can’t stop it anyway, so why try? But that’s not how I feel. You see, facing the reality of the power and scope of sin forces us to admit that what we need is something more powerful than sin. We are being bullied, and we need somebody to step in and show the bully the door.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that, yes, sin and death are strong…but Jesus is stronger. That sin can put us in a hole of guilt and shame so deep…but grace is deeper. That the hate and distrust that devour our relationships is overwhelming…but can be overwhelmed by love.
I hope there is a third way to live. A place where we don’t seclude ourselves in forts, but also don’t give up hope. I want to live in the way of grace. Now, it is a hard place to live. Because on the one hand grace says, “Do your best” but also admits, “Bad stuff can happen.” A graceful life understands there is no insurance; that it isn’t all in our hands. Grace knows we can’t control anyone outside of ourselves (and often we don’t even do that well). The whole idea of grace begins with the admission that sin is powerful and bad things do happen to good people. But grace won’t let us give up. It won’t let us hide from the world, or live in fear, or became cynical and jaded and just give in. No, we trust in the One who points us toward how to live and gives us mercy when we don’t quite pull it off. So there is always hope.
We all need to wake up to the power of sin. To understand that no government program or parenting ideal or church done just right can fix the human heart. Sin gets in. And then, once we get our eyes wide open, once we see how truly powerful sin is, we may be ready to follow the One who overcomes sin and death.