There used to be a large, open field next to the elementary school I went to. We called it the farmer’s field because an old farm house sat near the front by the road. When I was a kid the field was full of low hanging trees, wild rabbits, and a winding dirt path that ran from the far end of the field to the main road. These days the dirt path has been replaced with newly paved roads, and newer ranch style homes fill the old field. We would play in the field all the time. These were the days before video games. All we had was a big open field and our imaginations. It was in this field full of tree forts and rabbit wrens that I first discovered porn.
We didn’t set out to have a sexual experience when we went to play that afternoon. But somewhere in between hide and seek and freeze tag one of my friends came across someone’s (an older kid’s no doubt) carefully folded yet poorly hidden stack of explicit photos which had been carefully cut out of various adult magazines. This was almost more than my seven year old brain could compute. Where were these women’s clothes? Whose pictures were these? Why did I feel so tingly inside? And, most importantly, how can I see more?
While this was my first experience with porn, it certainly wasn’t my last. In fact, it wasn’t much longer before we found out my next door neighbor’s dad “hid” his men’s magazines in the bathroom or that another friend’s brother had a deck of adult novelty playing cards. I’m 34 years old. So, this would have been 1981 or 1982. We didn’t have the internet or text messages, yet we were still exposed to porn. Often.
It wasn’t long ago that I heard a conversation among some very well-intentioned Christian parents. They were understandably concerned and fearful that their children might be exposed to some adult content on cable TV or on the internet. Both people were talking about how they were making sure their children didn’t “find out about” this stuff by removing cable and internet from their home. I’ve heard of this solution many, many times, and in some cases it may be the best thing to do. But sometimes, I fear that we resort to building a fortress around our children rather than teaching them about the world or about some of the experiences that we have had in the world.
Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Our instruction is to remember the things we have seen, experienced, and done. Not only should we hold tightly to what we have learned, we must also teach it to our children. I learned a small, lasting lesson about sexuality in the farmer’s field that summer afternoon. I’ll never forget it. And from that lesson I will teach my children. I will try to be aware of what they may know or what they may have been exposed to. I will try to remember some of the thoughts and questions I had that day and will try to be prepared to answer theirs. I will remind myself that, despite my parents’ best protection, I was exposed to “the world.” In fact, I was playing in it. I can’t block them off from the world completely. But I can be present to guide them through it and to help them make godly choices. I can’t isolate them; I can only teach them.