Who do your children look up to? Who do they want to be like? Who influences their behavior? Who do they think is cool?
These questions are important, because their heroes and idols will captivate their hearts and minds. Often, they imitate the way they talk and sing, and will aspire to be like them.
I know that my girls want to grow up to be Belle, Cinderella, or one of the other Disney Princesses, because they have been steeped in "princess culture." They have watched all the movies numerous times, they have all the princess costumes so they can role-play as princesses, they sing the princess songs from the movies, they ask me questions about the princess' lives, and they have the princess dolls. There are probably no less than 100 items in my home that display the Disney princess brand--everything from band-aids to toothpaste, to clothes, to toys, to fruit snacks.
I don't think all this is necessarily bad. I liked the princesses when I was a young child, and I still enjoy the movies I watch with my girls. It is just precious when they "get dressed for the ball" and seek out my husband, requesting a dance and asking him to be their "prince."
As they get a little older, the princess world will probably fade away, and other people will take their place. For example the new "idols de jour" for tweens are Hannah Montana, depicted by Miley Cyrus, and Justin Beiber. (Of course, this applies primarily to girls; having two daughters, I only know about girl stuff).
Of course, as kids get older, their heroes can go from relatively harmless to those having values that are diametrically opposed to ours. Lady Gaga, the Jersey Shore cast, rock stars with opulent lifestyles, and athletes who abuse substances and brag about the number of people they sleep with are a few examples.
I cannot shield Mika and Macy from the people that our culture exalts as heroes to be captivated by, interested in, and possibly emulate, but I can at least give them some alternatives, some people who truly are heroes in God's eyes. These can include anyone, of any profession, who is living their life for God.
One of the best examples I know of "a true hero" are missionaries, especially those serving God on the foreign mission field. These heroes are unlikely to ever be on reality TV or have a sitcom made about their lives. They will never have a large following on Twitter or have a Facebook page with tens of thousands of members. They will not be endowed with a celebrity iPhone app that bears their name and likeness.
They will not have a blockbuster movie made about their lives, and they will not have hundreds of licensed products with their names and faces plastered on them.
Their greatest reward will be in heaven, for eternity. One thousand, ten thousand, ten billion years from now, they will be reaping the benefits of living a life faithful to God, often in very difficult conditions and sometimes sacrificing their very lives for the purpose of bringing the glory of God to the ends of the earth.
Ann Dunagan, author of "The Mission-Minded Child," says that "We need to instill in our children an admiration for servants of God who lived for His purposes instead of their own." So, although there are many positive role models for my children, immersing them in the lives of missionaries seems like a good place to start.
However, before I can teach my girls about missionary heroes, I have to do some reflection and soul searching. I asked myself, "other than a few missionaries that our church supports, how many missionaries can I name?" I thought for a few minutes, and could recall three: Billy Graham, John Wycliffe, and Jim Elliot.
I try to tell myself that I am so often consumed with the needs of my family that I don't really have time to learn about missionaries and the work they are doing (or have done) around the globe. But then I am reminded that in the last few weeks, I have learned about the latest celebrity divorces, the life perspectives of Cher and Jane Fonda, my favorite singer's sold-out tour, my Facebook friends' opinions of the Black-Eyed Peas performance at the Super Bowl, and the possible political ramifications to the GOP if the national debt ceiling is raised in March.
All that is required is that I turn off Oprah and Fox News, put down People magazine, and investigate some of these missionaries. I want to learn about people who do not hold anything back and are not motivated by fame, glory or money, but instead, remained faithful to God even if it cost them their lives. Resources to learn about missionaries abound, so it will not be difficult to find information once a put my mind to it.
Only when I develop a passion for missions and see missionaries as heroes worthy of my respect will I be able to teach my children about them. Mika and Macy will not learn people like David Livingstone or Amy Charmicael from public school, their friends, TV shows, music, or movies. If they are going to learn about these missionary heroes, it will have to start at home.
So, I'm off to read some mini-biographies about missionaries. Some ideas for giving my children an alternative to the world's heroes will be coming in another post.
"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among the nations." Psalm 67:1-2