“I was talking my parents down from the edge today.” Pause for shared mirth and a look passed between teens who know it all. This phrase suggests that parents are needlessly fearful. They have ceased to engage culture in a meaningful way. They are afraid of change, and have withdrawn into the safety of their outdated ideas. The kids have to take charge of reality and talk their parents down from the ledge.
This clash of generations often presents itself in the context of movie choice. When our kids chooses a Netflix movie, we often find that the worldview presented is a very far cry from what we are comfortable with. The messaging seems to be carelessly tawdry. There is lack of meaning in the plots, only appetites, and people behaving badly. It disturbs me that my kids find this in any way normal.
I confess I have had my own false idols when I was younger. Only as an adult did I sit down and figure out that I probably would not like someone like Mick Jagger for a neighbour. Now I look at my kids, and I fear that they are looking to the Kardashians for tips on how to live well.
Psalms 29:18 tells us that “without a vision the people perish” and that is what I think is going on right now. There is an inability to clearly see where we are at. It’s not the people who are uneasy we should be worried about, it is the people who do not seem to be worried at all. Culture has shifted drastically. The pandemic of 2020 served to expose the underlying issues of a world set adrift from traditional moorings. People have lost their way. They don’t know where they are going, or how to get there. Tell them to man the tiller, to find the lifeboats, or to throw anchor and they will look at you with glazed eyes.
Last year, Isaiah 41:10 showed up on Bible app search engines as the most sought after verse of the year. People maybe punched in keywords like hope, and counsel for the future. The verse promises: “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The message “do not fear” shows up time and again in the Bible, and I believe its advice should be taken to heart.
“Do not fear” does not mean to live carelessly with your eyes closed. Canadian author Michael D. O’Brien tells a story in his book “A Landscape with Dragons” where his young son was afraid of monsters in his room. He considered telling his son that monsters do not exist. He asked his son to draw what scared him, and his son illustrated a very evil-looking dragon. The dragon is a universal archetype but that does not mean that its threat is imaginary. Rather, the dragon archetype adds flesh to what we sense but cannot make out clearly; that evil is real. He concludes “It is good that our children fear dragons, for in their fearing, they can learn to overcome fear with courage”. Dragons can be defeated.
Revelation 12: 7-11 tells this story: Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”
I am wary looking out into the future, that I see things clearly. It is not the same thing as being fearful. I hope that seeing clearly makes me prudent and careful. I hope it reminds me to look for good and worthy things to fill my thoughts, things that will help and strengthen me – and equip me for living. That “evil day” the Bible talks about just may have arrived and we all could use some help.
There are some standbys that should not be forgotten. Leaning on ancient scripture which talks about a faithful and unchanging God is one of those. Isaiah 30:21 tells us, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” It’s the voice of our maker and our defender, words that are good to heed in uncertain times.