Sheltering vs. Equipping and the Purpose of Motherhood

SARA WALLACE|GUEST

As loud and crazy as my house gets with five little boys, I don’t relish the day they will leave. Sometimes I cuddle the baby and whisper, “You can stay with me forever.” If my husband overhears me, he says, “Oh, no he can’t!” So I whisper to the baby that I will make him a special room in the basement.

But I know in my heart that I am not raising them to live in the basement. I am raising them to be independent, godly leaders of their own homes, churches, and communities. My only reservation is…the basement seems so much safer. How can I keep them safe and prepare them to leave the nest at the same time?

The False Security of Sheltering

I have a couple of readers in the house now. My oldest two sons will grab anything with words on it and read it to me. Recently they’ve been reaching for the newspaper. But I was quickly reminded that the newspaper isn’t rated “G.” The same page with an educational article about the economy had articles about a public official’s affair and a sex-trafficking bust. Time to put the paper away for a little longer.

When I see a newspaper page like that in the hands of my sweet young son I get angry. I feel like my kids don’t deserve to grow up in such an evil world. I want to protect them from everything “out there.”

But the Bible says sin doesn’t come from “out there.” Sin comes from within. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Not from the newspaper. Not from the politicians. Not from the internet. Sin comes from the heart. “Sheltering” gives us a false sense of security when we take comfort in shutting out the world. We fall for the lie that if we make enough rules and create a completely controlled environment, our kids will be safe. But there is a better way to shelter our kids. Instead of using sheltering to smother and control, we can use sheltering to prepare and equip.

The Beauty of Equipping

If we think of our parenting like a greenhouse, we can recognize both the usefulness and the limits of our sheltering. A greenhouse serves a temporary purpose. Its purpose is to protect fragile plants until they become strong enough to be transplanted and thrive on their own. Right now, my kids are seedlings. They are weak and vulnerable and completely oblivious to most of the things that can hurt them. They need my greenhouse so they can thrive in a worry-free, threat-free environment. But this is not just a time of protecting. It is a time of preparing.

The best way I can prepare my kids for everything “out there” is to prepare them for what’s inside their own hearts. Standing strong in the face of evil starts from the inside out. We can’t protect our kids from the world forever, but there is something we can do: we can give them the right tools.

When I was pregnant with my third boy, I went through Kathleen Neilson’s study on the book of Proverbs. I immediately started underlining verses that I wanted my kids to memorize one day. By the end, I had underlined almost the entire book. The book of Proverbs is a dad writing to his son. King Solomon pleads with his son to listen to wisdom and live. And he gets extremely practical. He tells his son exactly how to:

  • not be an idiot (see Prov. 3:7)
  • work hard (see Prov. 6:6)
  • be truthful (see Prov. 12:17)
  • make good friends (see Prov. 1:10)
  • speak well (see Prov. 15:23)
  • stop a fight (see Prov. 17:14)
  • be self-controlled (see Prov. 25:28)
  • find a good wife (see Prov. 31)

Solomon’s wisdom has deep roots because it is all grounded in one thing: the fear of the Lord. Over and over he reminds his son that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).

How can you equip your kids? Do what Solomon did: Teach them the fear of the Lord. Tell them who God is and what he has done for sinners. Speak of his attributes, point out his creation, and draw attention to his daily mercies. Talk about sin and forgiveness. Be open. Be a resource, not just a rule-maker. Memorize scripture and pray together. Instead of shutting out the world, you can give your kids a biblical lens through which to see it.

It’s not the four walls of my home that protect my kids. It’s not my arms. It’s not even all my good advice and internet research. God is the one who protects my kids. And just as he has the final say over their well-being while they’re in my care, he has the final say over it when they leave my home. One day they will be out of my arm’s reach and out of my sight. But they will not be beyond God’s reach. The best way I can prepare them for the world is to help them to know the God who will be with them when I am not.

Editor’s Note: This article contains a partial excerpt from Sara’s new book, Created to Care: God’s Truth for Anxious Moms (P&R, 2019).

About the Author:

Sara Wallace

Sara Wallace graduated from The Master’s University and was a classroom teacher before she became a homeschool mom. She and her husband Dave live with their five sons in Idaho. She is the author of Created to Care, For the Love of Discipline and The Gospel-Centered Mom Bible study, and she writes at gospelcenteredmom.com. You can follow her on Facebook for daily encouragement in motherhood.

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