Do you have a vision for your kids—a vision of the men and women you hope they become? What about a vision for them sexually?
I know, I know. We don’t want to think of our kids that way. But our discomfort is more a result of our own unhealed experiences and distorted views of sex than in any kind of “purity” on our part.
Jesus created our kids—and each one of us—to be sexual creatures. It’s an important part of who your kids are and who they’re becoming.
But ask the average Christian parent about a vision for their kids in this essential part of their lives, and they’ll either draw a blank or answer with a list of things they don’t want for their kids:
- I want to help keep my kids from looking at porn online.
- I want them to be virgins until marriage (aka I don’t want them to have sex until their wedding night).
- I don’t want my kids getting pregnant or getting anyone pregnant unless they’re married.
- I want my kids to view their bodies as a gift they shouldn’t squander.
Okay, fair enough. But none of these is an adequate vision.
Like us, our kids are on a long journey. And everyone on a long journey gets tired, faces injury, slogs through dry spells, falls sometimes, hunkers down through storms, and loses the path.
Your kid’s journey toward sexual wholeness is no different.
Whatever your vision of who you hope your kids are becoming, it’s got to be resilient enough to weather whatever comes their way. If not, it’s not truly a Christian vision.
Here are two questions that will help:
- Can your vision lead your kids forward when they’re doing well? Meaning, does it point them farther down the path or does it leave them open to thinking they’ve arrived when they haven’t?
- Can your vision lead them forward when they fail or fall? Does it help them get back up when they wake up in the mud or does it push them back down?
By way of example, take the goal mentioned above: To remain a virgin until their wedding night.
Looking at question 1, the answer is no. Virginity is one part of chastity and only a piece of sexual wholeness, not to mention they’ll need a vision that lasts throughout marriage—the finish line for sexual integrity shouldn’t be a person’s wedding day.
Looking at question 2, again the answer is no. What’s left of this vision to inspire a son or daughter who went too far one night with a boyfriend or girlfriend? If your kids feel like any failure they’ve had disqualifies them from living up to your hopes for them, they’ll go sideways or underground.
(To be clear, virginity until marriage is God’s design and standard. It’s just not a full enough vision of who He’s inviting your kids to become.)
In contrast, let me offer you a working vision I have for my daughters and son:
Become a man or woman whose life is a visible expression of the love of Christ.
Now check out how this vision holds up to the two questions above.
Regarding the first question, even if my kids are abstaining from sexually sinful behavior, does this vision give them room to grow and something higher to which they can aspire? Yes! When I think of the love of Christ, I can’t help but think of Jesus giving Himself humbly, lovingly, wholly, faithfully, and sacrificially for His Bride. When it comes to how we steward our bodies and erotic desires, this isn’t just about “saving yourself until marriage,” but about how my kids handle all their relationships for the rest of their lives, whether married or single.
Regarding the second question, will this vision work for my son or daughter who has sinned sexually? Can it help them move forward when they fall—does it include them still? Oh my gosh, yes! In Luke 7, a woman known for her sexual sin washed Jesus feet with tears, and Jesus said there was a link between the forgiveness she received from Him and her love for Him. With Christ, sometimes the areas where we falter most become the very reasons we love Him.
Become a man or woman whose life is a visible expression of the love of Christ.
A simple vision like this can apply to your sexuality as well as your kids’. It works for guys and girls, parents and those unable to have children, marrieds and singles, the newlywed and the divorcee, the Sunday School “saint” and the ex-adulterer. And it applies equally well in the hallways, posting a selfie, playing sports, on a date, or in the marriage bed.
One more extremely important point: Any vision you have for your kids is just that—your vision. They may not make it their own. Especially as they get older, they’ll be developing their own vision (they’ll probably try on a few). That’s actually a good thing.
But again, develop a big enough vision for them and maybe it’ll challenge them to come up with a rockin’ vision of their own.
I’d love to hear from you! Did your parents talk with you about their hopes for you in the area of sex? If you have kids, what thoughts arise for you as you read? Leave a comment or question here.
I was a woman who did not have any sense of what healthy sexuality looked like and came into marriage still forming that vision. Through various ways, culminating with NoVa Living Waters and several years of small group leadership, God has enabled my husband and me to live out in our home what we now know and wholeheartedly believe about healthy sexuality. We have been raising kids for 15 years now. I have a boy and a girl. My husband and I live our faith every day, and they see it. Certainly we are not perfect, but we are honest with them about our faith, and seek their forgiveness when we fall short.
I think our society focuses a lot on developing vision and casting vision, vision statements, and being visionary, but one can’t have a vision unless there is something to focus on. A projector needs a flat surface on which to cast its light or it’s just a blur dancing around in space. We have to be the flat screen that the vision falls on–the living, breathing example of what sexual wholeness looks like. This is why we need role models in our lives. If we do not have a clear sense of who we must be as parents, there is no place for our kids to focus.
In our house, Dad is a godly man and a gentleman–with Mom and his girl and he expects his son to be as well. He does not make or tolerate crass jokes. He does not swear. He does not look at porn or tolerate its use. He is appropriately affectionate with me in the kids’ presence. He is affectionate with them. The subject of sexuality is not a taboo topic and the kids are allowed to come to us with any and all questions they have. We monitor their use of media. In essence I think we are doing things right, but it’s not because we “developed a vision” for them beyond the that of a home that puts Christ at the center and holds him and his word as our highest standard. In essence we look at Christ’s example of gentleness and respect, and then model that for our children. He is our vision, but I don’t know that we ever defined it as that. Maybe we just called it “godly living.”
I am not yet in a place where I can see how or if my kids will stumble in their sexuality. I expect that they will, and have already decided that I will have grace for them when and if that day comes, but I can say that they are both very comfortable in their skin and appear to be emotionally healthy individuals. My son is demonstrating behaviors that show me that he may grow to be a fine gentleman like his dad. I told him recently when one of his friends did something silly and he stood up to him, “Well done–I trust you as much as I can trust a teenage boy, which isn’t much, so I’m keeping an eye on you,” and he just grinned at me. He gets it. He knows we will hold him accountable, and he expects it. Hopefully, as he tries out different visions he will look back and see that we cast the one that God desires for him.
This is probably one of the best, most succinctly written messages on this topic that I have read. It is also timely since I am struggling with how to express this very kind of vision to my four teens, given my own brokenness in this area. You’re right — it’s my own failure in this area that keeps me from being able to even find the courage to talk about this other than in a list of “don’ts.” Thank you so much for expressing so eloquently what I have been trying to say. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words at the right time to bring this message to my kids.
Bill, I respect your courage in admitting that your brokenness and failure in sexuality makes it difficult for you to find courage to talk with your teens. I am praying for you right now.
My parents did not talk to my about sex at all, other than an extremely brief and confusing explanation of “where babies come from” when I was in elementary school.
My school offered a sex education class to 7th graders. Back at that time (early 80’s) parental permission was required. My mom told me “I talked to your dad. I talked to your sister-in-law. They both said ‘Mark doesn’t need this class.'” I was the only 7th grader not allowed to take the class. And within a year I was sexually active.
NOW… I’m not blaming my sexual activity on not being in the class. I’m not blaming it directly on my parents. But looking back I see the tragedy of my mom thinking that by keeping me from attending a class on sex, she was somehow doing her “job.”
My parents communicated a lot of hopelessness; in the areas of sex, marriage, having a future, living with desire.
I like your statement Josh, about becoming a man whose life is an expression of Christ’s love. As Christ continues to redeem me, I hope, desire, long, believe that I will continue to grow in a love I’ve never known humanly. And I hope, desire, long, believe for Christ’s love in me to be seen as an intimacy that stirs others to jealousy to know that love for themselves.
I’m a long ways from that. But I am much closer than when I was in 7th grade.