I grew up in a family of readers. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading to me at bedtime. I only vividly recall two books from my childhood, although I’m sure there were more.
One was Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Dad read “The Elephant’s Child” or “How the Elephant Got His Trunk” to me so many times I think the book naturally fell open to this story of how the young elephant’s insatiable curiosity took him to the shores of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River where he tangled with a crocodile who grabbed his then-stubby nose and pulled on it until it stretched into its current shape and length. When The Elephant’s Child returned from his adventure, his trunk which he discovers now has ever so many uses became the envy of all the other elephants who rather than doing their normal spanking of the young elephant for his ‘satiable curiosity themselves made the trek to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River to have the crocodile pull their noses into useful trunks, too.
The other book was an illustrated Bible for children. It was grey, thick and filled with colored pictures illustrating the great Bible stories. I loved looking at that Bible. My favorite story and illustration was Noah and the Ark. As an animal loving child, I was fascinated by the idea of God causing all the animals on the earth to come two by two to this huge boat that Noah obediently built. I remember, too, a picture of Samson standing between the pillars of the Philistine temple with his arms extended pushing until the pillars broke and the temple fell. Mom and Dad read these and many other stories from the Bible to me over and over and over again. I don’t recall our discussing them, but I’m sure I had questions that they answered—again and again and again.
And what did I gain from these parent-child reading experiences? I gained more than I can possibly relate, but here are a couple I believe are particularly noteworthy.
I gained a love for literature—good literature in particular. My parents saw to it that the books we spent the most time with were quality writing. To this day, a well-written book is a thing of beauty and joy for me. I learned to distinguish good literature from bad literature by a steady exposure to the good.
More importantly, I learned about God and His Word. I saw His provision, His love, His holiness, His commandments—and I never doubted that the stories I listened to as a child were real. My parents were establishing a firm foundation in me, an unshakeable faith that God is real and His Word is true. I learned to distinguish good from bad, right from wrong and truth from lies by a steady exposure to the good, the right and the truth.
Of course this doesn’t mean I haven’t doubted or strayed. I’d be lying if I said that. But I can honestly say, by God’s grace, over the years I’ve wrestled and worked through those things and time and again have realized that those foundational lessons were absolutely critical in building my life and my worldview.
Tragically, today I meet young people who say they are Christians who have little to no Christian worldview. They don’t know what they believe or why they believe it. A new poll released just last week indicates, for instance, that American Christians who think same-sex marriage is ok, are seven times more likely to approve of pornography, three times more likely to approve of cohabiting, six times more likely to approve of no-strings-attached sex, five times more likely to approve of adultery, thirteen times more likely to approve of polyamorous relationships, and six times more likely to approve of abortion.
How do people who say they are Christians come to these conclusions when God’s Word is extremely clear on these matters? I believe it is a lack of a strong foundation. They do not know what God’s Word says about these issues. Maybe they didn’t have parents who took the time to repeatedly read Bible stories to them or who took them to Bible-preaching and Bible-teaching churches. While there’s no guarantee in parenting, parents exposing their children to the Truth through Bible stories and good teaching provides a foundation that will be with them all their lives. They develop a sensitivity that helps them discern lies, which enables them to filter the garbage they hear and see in the world—and it increases dramatically the likelihood that they don’t buy the lies that result in an absolutely unbiblical worldview and results much too often in a ruined life.