Can a trip to the mall help children grow spiritually? Joe Battagalia shares one such trip that opened his eyes to key issues and how that forever changed his parenting.
In this generation, fathers are needed more than ever before to offset the onslaught of influences that would negatively impact our children. I became acutely aware of this scenario in a rather strange way—by shopping with my daughter at a mall about ten years ago. My daughter asked to go into a hip, fashionable store for teens to buy a shirt. As I entered, I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought I was in the wrong store—that I’d accidentally walked into an X-rated video establishment. Pictures of half-naked young women (probably not much older than my daughter) lying on top of equally undressed young men adorned the walls.
After spending my life in marketing and communication, the message was clear—our culture has sacrificed the innocence of our youth on the altar of sexual glorification. It’s no longer about selling clothes; rather, it’s more about selling our souls. We decry the way our wives and daughters are disparaged over their body images and seen as sexual objects, yet we promulgate the lifestyles and clothing lines that lead to the very thing we denounce. We have become a schizophrenic society.
But wait, the story did not end there. My daughter knew me all too well. As I approached the counter to pay, I placed the shirt on the counter, and then informed the young man helping us that I was really offended by the display on the walls. By now, my daughter was embarrassed by my approach and was turning quite red.
Then I asked the young man, “How do you feel about working in this environment, particularly working alongside a young lady?” Then I asked the young lady, “How do you feel about all of this? Are you offended, even a little bit? Does this promote the wholesome way in which you’d like to be perceived by the young man working alongside you?”
As my daughter muttered under her breath, “Dad, they don’t care,” the young man turned to me and said, “I wish my father cared as much.” That was his exact quote, which I’ll never forget. “I wish my father cared as much,” he said.
To this day I’m convinced he said what he said because it was on his heart to say it. I suspect that, in this young man’s heart, rarely did he see evidence of a man standing up for what he believed in to protect his child from the increasing moral ambivalence that is suffocating our youth with sexual indulgence beyond their ability to handle or even understand it.
In that clothing store, maybe the message was that young people have a prevailing mind-set of openness toward sex. Who knows? All I do know is that messages are intentional, and a father can alter the destiny of his children by challenging the prevailing mind-sets of the day to teach them by example and by his words.
THINK ABOUT THIS:
In Deuteronomy 11:18–19, Moses says this to fathers, whom he addresses as the teachers of their households: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
God gives men the responsibility to father their children. It’s not enough to bring children into the world and only care for their physical and emotional needs. There is a spiritual need that all children have that must be addressed, and God asks us as fathers to meet that need. By nature, all fathers are teachers. Some are absent and some are reluctant, but children will learn something from us, even if it’s nothing at all. The question is, what do we want them to learn, and from whom do we want them to learn it?
A father will be the teacher by his actions, his love, and his verbal opportunities to communicate character and truth in everyday experiences—when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we shop at a mall. Every experience is an opportunity to teach our children.
Click here to learn more about Joe Battaglia’s new book That’s My Dad – Thatsmydadmovement.org.