So last week a blogger posted a letter to her son’s female friends about the sexy selfies they were posting on social media. Some people shared it. Lots of people liked it. Lots of people hated it. And the internet basically exploded.
The whole episode got me thinking about what I wanted to say to my children. So here’s my take in a letter to my son. (The letter to my daughters is here.).
My sweet boy,
You had a chocolate milk mustache on your upper lip this morning. You grinned at me and I caught a glimpse of a young man grinning down at me with that same cheeky smile. One day those big blue eyes are going to look out at me from a man’s face. I selfishly hope that day doesn’t come too soon.
You’re growing up. Our culture throws mixed messages at girls, but boys get their share too. T.V. shows men either as overgrown teenagers, incompetent fools, or love-‘em-and-leave’em oversexed heroes. How many images do you see of husbands and fathers who show up, commit to their families, and engage in the hard work of parenting? Not many.
I want better for you. I want you to show people the heart of God. I pray you do that as you find your passion and calling. I pray you do it as a loving husband and daddy who protects and honors and nurtures his family. I pray that you have compassion for the weak and speak out for those who have no voice. On Sunday when the little girls all got scared of a spider on the playground, you grabbed a stick and went swinging in. You stuck your chest out and told me “I took care of them, Mom.” One day you’re going to find that there are scarier things than spiders in this world to fight. I pray that you hang on to that warrior heart.
I pray that you honor God with your body. Jesus was no wimp. I want you to be strong enough and bold enough to move confidently into any calling God has for you. I want you to be proud of your masculinity and express your sexuality within the God-given boundaries of marriage. I want to weep joyful tears at the wonder on your face when they throw the church doors open and you see your bride. I want to see you standing boldly, declaring the truth of the gospel to a world that desperately needs to know God’s healing power.
And I know there’s going to be some bumps along the road. One of these days you’re going to start noticing girls. Their hair, their eyes, the way they walk—all of these things are suddenly going to become very interesting to you. There’s no shame in that. There’s nothing wrong with noticing a pretty girl. But there’s a fine line between looking and lusting. Holiness is not just a matter of doing but a matter of being. In a world that mocks virginity, I pray you choose to do things God’s way.
The world isn’t going to make that easy. We’re careful about what movies we watch and what we allow on our T.V. But I know I can’t protect you forever. I don’t know how it’s going to come. It may be a pop-up on your computer screen or a friend that wants you to watch this really hot video online. It may be a friend’s sexy self-portrait that shows up in your Facebook feed, or a picture text sent to you by a girl trying to get your attention. However it comes, there’s going to be a moment when you’re going to look and want to linger. You’re going to be tempted to treat her like an object for your enjoyment, to reduce her to the sum of her parts.
I want you to see her like Jesus does. Read your Bible and see how Jesus treated women. In a day when women weren’t permitted to learn from a rabbi, Jesus let Mary sit at his feet. He looked at a promiscuous Samaritan woman and saw her as a precious daughter of God. When the scribes and Pharisees threw an adulterous woman down at his feet, he turned the tables. Her accusers walked away condemned and she left forgiven. He took a woman possessed by seven demons and made her the first witness to his resurrection. Jesus called women from brokenness into destiny. He made them full citizens in his kingdom. He called them forth from darkness into his glorious light.
So sweet boy, I want you to refuse to objectify her. Whoever she is, remember that she is someone’s sister, someone’s daughter. Remember that she is a daughter of the king. Don’t judge her. Maybe she’s just experimenting and not thinking about the wisdom of posting pictures in her towel for the world to see. Maybe she’s intentionally making the choice to use her sexuality as power. But sometimes there’s pain behind those photos. Maybe she’s trying to escape what her stepdad does when mom’s at work. Maybe her ‘boyfriend’ talked her into posing for that video “so you can prove how much you love me, baby.” Photos don’t show the violence and the victimization that keeps many girls and women caught in the trafficking trap that fuels the prostitution and pornography industry. Recognize that behind the image lies a person—a child of God who needs her brokenness healed. Don’t add to her exploitation.
Baby boy, you’re going to get it wrong sometimes. We serve a gracious God. Pick yourself up so you can fall on your knees before him. That’s the only way any of us ever get it right. But I can see the man you’re going to become. You’re going to be a man of honor, a tree planted by water. You’re going to use your strength to protect and preserve, not take and demand. You’re going to walk in integrity and the fear of the Lord. You will be a man of wisdom and courage who passionately seeks the kingdom. My son: prophet, priest, and king.
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