"She let us down."
That's what one ten-year-old said about Miley Cyrus' more-than-suggestive performance at the MTV Awards. That little girl nailed it.
Miley's romp - looking all "little girl" - became an obscene public display of stripper moves and sexual suggestion. Unfortunately, now it's popping up on newscasts.
She was once the innocent Disney girl, Hannah Montana. I guess she feels that shedding clothes will shed that image. And she's important to a lot of young girls. Who she really did let down.
Twitter and social networks have erupted in a tsunami of comments - most fairly outraged. "She crossed a line" is a prevailing sentiment. Apparently, our jaded culture still believes there's a line.
But I'm not interested in joining the "roast Miley" chorus. I'm more concerned in what she represents. In terms of what this culture can do to any of our kids or grandkids.
Starting out innocent. Quickly poisoned and corrupted by a bombardment of sexual images. Flesh everywhere. Worth that comes from romance. Love and sex portrayed almost as synonyms. Little girls pushed to be big girls way too soon. Music that makes kids know about what they don't need to know about...and want what they shouldn't be wanting.
And standing between an onrushing, innocence-robbing culture and our kids? A mom. A dad. Maybe a grandma or grandpa.
Who will need courage to say "no" to what other parents are letting in. To the deafening drumbeat that seems to say, "Come on - everybody's doing it." Yes, that requires playing big-time defense against influences that are poison wrapped in beautiful packages.
God has no greater trust He can give a human than a life to shape. And, yes, it means playing some bigtime defense against the lies our culture buys.
But, in the modern parent playbook, playing offense is at least as important as playing defense. Which means teaching and showing our children what's really important. Like childhood. Letting them be eight when they're eight...ten when they're ten...14 when they're 14. Having a childhood. You'll never be a kid again. You'll have the rest of your life to be grown up. Don't waste the years when you don't have to worry about mascara and image and who-likes-who.
Playing offense means showing them sex is created to be the special language of a love that lasts a lifetime. That your body isn't bait. That clean is cool, not dirty.
We prepare them for the minefield when we let them know that it matters what you watch, what you listen to, what you laugh at. "Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23 ).
And we fortify them by loving them so obviously and unconditionally that they don't have to go looking for love in all the wrong places. Letting them know that they are, as the Bible says, "God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10 ). That they get their worth from their Creator, not from a guy or girl. That - like collectibles - they're the most valuable when they keep themselves in "mint condition."
They need to feel free to tell us anything - without fear of shock or condemnation. So they can debrief the experiences - and sometimes the garbage - of their day.
My wife and I have been so thankful that our kids - and now our grandkids - have never left home alone. Because they left with Somebody who loves them more than we ever could. The One little children sing about in church - "Jesus loves me, this I know."
He died for them. And for us. So we know He'll keep His promise: "He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11 ).
If I hadn't put my life in Jesus' hands before, having kids in this kind of world would have driven me to Him. Yes, for my sake. But - maybe even more - for their sake.
The Great Shepherd. Who never takes His eyes off His sheep.