I was walking through Wal-Mart the other day and stopped in the book section to see if there was anything my oldest daughter would be interested in reading. I wish I had taken a picture of the section. The entire 12-foot bookshelf was filled with books with dark covers. The entire shelf was black. The books were either vampire novels or dark fantasy. The impression the shelf left was one of darkness and fear, and I didn't even pick up any of the books.
Now, I'm not going to argue about whether you should let your children read vampire or fantasy novels. (Personally, I'm not a big fan of the vampire genre, but I like certain fantasy stuff.) I don't think if your kids read vampire novels they're going to turn into vampires any more than I think if they read books about airplanes, they're going to turn into an airplane.
What I do want to talk about is how that bookshelf is a good picture of how darkness can encroach on our lives without us realizing it. Our kids face a darker, more confusing world than the one we grew up in. They are constantly being bombarded at a young age with images and ideas that would have been considered inappropriate just two decades ago. They live in a world where terrorists kill people for no reason other than they disagree with a set of beliefs. Commercials, TV shows and movies throw unrealistic physical expectations at them along with sexual inuendo and images for which they aren't ready.
Through all this, we and our kids are expected to shine as light in the darkness. Matthew 5:16 says "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Sometimes, shining that light means your kids have to be different. God calls us to be holy. Holy simply means "set apart." When something is set apart, it shouldn't look like everything else.
As Christians, we shouldn't look like the rest of the world. We make our decisions based on what God says, not on what the rest of the world says. That may mean making some tough decisions as parents. You may have to say no to the inappropriately short shorts that your daughter wants to buy. It may mean your son can't go see that PG-13 rated action-adventure movie that "everyone" else in his class has seen. It's not easy to stand apart and shine your light. It's even tougher when you're at an age where the opinion of your peers means everything in deciding where you fit in the childhood social strata.
Nothing makes this easier for parents or kids. There's no magic wand to wave to make shining your light in the darkness painless. And shining that light may look different for your family than it does for another Christ-following family. The best we can do in our job as parents is to try to help our children understand why we are making the decisions that we make about what they can and can't be involved with. When you make a decision that seems to go against the grain of the rest of the world, sit down with your kids and explain the reasons behind that decision. Let them know that you're not randomly deciding to punish them by not letting them participate in a fashion trend, movie or book. Give them a chance to understand the principles behind your decision. Use scripture to back up the decision.
Standing up as a light in the darkness is tough, and it seems that there's so much more darkness aimed at our kids than ever before. Stand firm and help your kids understand what shining a light in the darkness looks like. Their light may be the only one some of their friends ever see.