Seven is the perfect age. I’m sure of it.
This morning my seven-year-old son woke up early, padding into the den in sock feet. I can see the sleep still lingering in his eyes as he curls up in my lap, all knees and elbows. I rest my chin in his tousled hair and breathe in the perfection of this age.
Seven: the number of perfection. Seven days of creation. The seventh day blessed and made holy. God spoke to Moses from within the smoking darkness cloaking the summit of Mount Sinai on the seventh day. Seven lamps illuminated the holy space around the ark of the covenant. The seventh month was designated for The Day of Atonement. Seven loaves broken by Jesus to feed 4,000 people, and seven baskets full of left overs (Matt 15:34-37). And then there’s all the sevens in Revelation: seven lamps, seven stars, seven churches, seven seals on the Book of Life, seven golden bowls, seven spirits around God’s throne. You get the picture: in the Bible, seven is a big deal. It’s symbolic of completion, or perfection—something that can’t be added to or taken away from, something that’s just right.
My son at 7 years: just now he’s just right.
There’s a tiny, selfish part of me that would keep this kid in my arms seven forever. I run my right hand over the line of his spine, and it’s as if I can feel his bones lengthening under my touch. He’s at that age when his two front teeth are too big for his smile. That age when his laugh is joyfully unrestrained, still silly, not even slightly tinged with an edge of sarcasm.
He’s still a child, but I’m beginning to glimpse the teen he’s becoming. And I know it won’t be long before he’ll be too big to crawl into my lap to snuggle in the still morning light.
One of the most familiar clichés of motherhood is that the days are long, but the years are fast like lightening—precious time evaporating like a golden vapor. The glow of the months lingers in memory, but the substance is gone.
The first seven years of childhood are an intriguing mix of energetic exploration and tenderness, stubborn outbursts and loving affection, curiosity and innocence. And if there’s one thing I don’t want my son to lose as he steps into the next seven-year stretch, it’s his innocence. But I know that it’s the thing the culture is most likely to take from him.
Pornography: Stealing Innocence, Breeding Predators
Innocence is a quality many of our adolescent sons are losing; rather, it’s being stolen from them. The more I read, the more my stomach churns and my mind rages, because I’m learning that the average age of first exposure to pornography is now eleven years old. A recent study revealed that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls were exposed to online pornography during their adolescence. You guys, that’s nearly 100% of our boys, almost all of them!
The lie at the heart of pornography is that it gives pleasure, when in fact all it produces is pain. Children under twelve years old who have viewed pornography are statistically more likely to sexually assault their peers. The American College of Pediatricians reports a few of the chilling effects on young men exposed to pornography:
- they demonstrate an “increased callousness toward women”
- they consider “the crime of rape less serious”
- they become “more interested in more extreme and deviant forms of pornography”
- they were “more likely to say they were dissatisfied with their sexual partner”
- they “valued marriage less and were twice as likely to believe marriage may become obsolete”
What is clear to me in all the research is that pornography breeds predators. It literally rewires the brain. It creates an insatiable appetite for unhealthy—sometimes violent—sexual experiences. We cannot wink at pornography as if it were a benign, guilty pleasure while decrying rape culture, because the reality is that the two go hand-in-hand.
Ah, my son—I don’t want any of this for you.
In the next seven years the boy snuggling in my arms will become an adolescent, and I know the numbers are against him. The numbers are against all our sons, because pornography is now pervasive. It’s more easily accessible than at any time in human history on portable, private digital screens.
The last thing I want is for the good, delightful, satisfying thing God created and blessed—physical intimacy—to become poison in my son’s heart. And so, I’m beginning to pray proactively about my son’s purity in a way I never have before.
I don’t pray for my children’s purity out of a frigid sense of prudishness. Far from it. I want my children to love fully and be loved in return. Sex is a beautiful gift of an experience, but only if it’s not distorted through the pornographic lens that makes women and men sexual objects—erotic toys—that can be debased, abused, and violated.
This blessing is a work in progress. It’s a prayer I scribbled in my journal and am starting to pray in quiet. Soon I’ll start praying it with my son, incorporating it into our prayers before bed, the ones we say when he’s lying beside me in the dark, his head resting on my shoulder.
Seven Blessings for My Son
May God’s word be written on your heart, and may your name be engraved on the palm of his hand.
May the Lord keep you from temptation, and protect you from evil.
May you be pure in heart and pure in thought, loving and seeking what is good, true, and beautiful.
May you live in the light, as you do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
May you be a creator—never a destroyer—using your words, actions and energy to build, to protect, to heal.
May you find a friend in Jesus, and be a friend to others, reaching out to the lonely, the hurting, and the sidelined.
May the joy of the Lord be your strength, and may you use your strength to lift others into the light of the love of the Lord.
A Study on the Impact of Pornography on Children by the American College of Pediatricians.