23 May 2013

On hot afternoons sitting by the side of the pool while the kids try and keep cool...

I've been reading young adult fiction again... although technically, I guess, when Orson Scott Card wrote Ender's Game back in the 1980s, he didn't realize how his book would appeal to that particular age group.

It did... Now there are middle school teachers teaching these books... and I'm encouraging my kids to read them and talk with me about what questions the books raise in their hearts and minds.

There's even a movie currently being made. The trailer was just released to You Tube this month.

Here's a short conversation between two characters... I just love the many directions questions and thoughtful pursuit of even just this short two pages of the book could go.
"So you see, Anton, the key you found has been turned, and it may be the salvation of the human race." 
"But the poor boy. to live his life so small, and then die as a giant." 
"Perhaps he'll be... amused at the irony." 
"How strange to think that my little key might turn out to be the salvation of the human race. From the invading beasts, anyway. Who will save us when we become our own enemy again." 
"We are not enemies, you and I." 
"Not many people are enemies to anyone. But the ones full of greed or hate, pride or fear -- their passion is strong enough to lever all the world into war." 
"If God can raise up a great soul to save us from one menace, might he not answer our prayers by raising up another when we need him?" 
"But Sister Carlotta, you know the boy you speak of was not raised up by god. He was created by a kidnapper, a baby-killer, an outlaw scientist."
"Do you know why Satan is so angry all of the time? Because whenever he works a particularly clever bit of mischief, God uses it to serve his own righteous purposes." 
"So God uses wicked people as his tools." 
"God gives us the freedom to create goodness out of that evil, for what is what he chooses." 
"So in the long run, God always wins." 
"In the short run, though, it can be uncomfortable." 
"And when, in the past, would you have preferred to die, in stead of being alive here today?" 
"There it is. We get used to everything. We find hope in anything."
"That is why I've never understood suicide. Even those suffering from great depression or guilt -- don't they feel Christ the comforter in their hearts, giving them hope?" 
"You're asking me?" 
"God not being convenient, I ask a fellow mortal." 
"In my view, suicide is not really the wish for life to end." 
"What is it, then?" 
"It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide." 
"As Adam and Eve hid from the Lord." 
"Because they were naked." 
"If only such sad people could remember: Everyone is naked. Everyone wants to hide. But life is still sweet. Let it go on." 
"You don't believe that the Formics are the beast of the Apocalypse, then, Sister?" 
"No, Anton. I believe they are also children of God." 
"And yet you found this boy specifically so he could grow up to destroy them." 
"Defeat them. Besides, if God does not want them to die, they will not die." 
"And if God wants us to die, we will. Why do you work so hard, then?" 
"Because these hands of mine, I gave them to God, and I serve him as best I can. If he had not wanted me to find Bean, I would not have found him." 
"And if God wants the Formics to prevail?" 
"He'll find some other hands to do it. For that job, he can't have mine." (pp 236-237, Ender's Shadow)

This is why I love reading young adult fiction these days. It seems that writers of this genre are one of the few who aren't afraid to engage youth and teens (and anyone else willing to read) with hard questions.

This single, simple dialogue about God touches on so many great topics, asks so many searching questions that don't have easy to find addresses as we search for answers in the Word. It challenges with questions that - in my experience with my young people - teens are often thinking but afraid to actually voice - things like God's plans, His almighty-ness, what it means to be His follower, suicide, war, obedience, hope, what seems like injustice from our perspective...

Literature often gives adults a bridge to cross into the minds and perspectives of those younger generations, helping to build trust, relationship and practice at asking hard questions and learning to seek answers to those questions together...

It is easy to see a book, hear a few things about it and make a general snap judgment pronouncement as to whether it is good, or bad. I used to think that I'd just screen all the books my kids wanted to read. 

That was realistic, wasn't it?

Yeah... until my oldest hit about 6th grade. Now, with 6 prolific readers checking out the maximum they can every few weeks from the library, there's no way I could begin to keep up. And just because it is something my second grader is reading doesn't mean it isn't as likely to be nothing worth reading. 

It became pretty obvious, pretty quickly that we needed to work on teaching our kids discernment regarding, when to stop a book because it was not encouraging them to think on right, pure, good, honorable... things. 

They needed to learn how to ask hard questions and to think about the messages contained within the book - and whether those messages honored God or dishonored Him and how they should respond. 

I needed to stop thinking I could protect them from all the ugly in a sin stained world - for it isn't what is on the outside that makes them sinful. That wells up from within. They needed.

I also needed to understand that the Holy Spirit speaks His messages, impressing them deep into our hearts in many languages and experiences. A book that spoke deeply to my son's heart was nothing more than mindless entertainment for me. A book that could have easily draw me into sadness and depression instead elicits a sense of wonder at the complexity of human relationships and leads her to ask questions about how God could be seen in those different situations.

Too bad there isn't a 3 step formula to teach discernment. 

Rather, in my experience, learning discernment results from a lot of trial and error and in the process, increasing sensitivity, ability and willingness to hear God's voice and accept His truth.

By definition, that means there will be tries resulting in great success. And there will be some pretty epic failures as well. 

I want to celebrate the life impacting books with my children. I want to encourage them as they learn their own boundaries. I want to offer them a hand up when they fall... I want them to learn to let all that they do become worship, sacrifice and service to the Almighty.

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