On Target, School Bathrooms, and the Idol of Safety

So here I am. Posting something about Target and the whole bathroom issue.

It would be easier to just let it go since everyone is so divided and angry about all this, but in everything I've read so far, I still feel like there are some things that haven't been said. 

But let me first start with this: I'm terrified of my children being sexually abused. Always have been. With a background in social work, I have heard stories that would make you want to vomit, unable to sleep for days. I know that, although the accepted idea is that "kids are resilient; they'll be fine," there are abusive situations that damage the psyche of an undeveloped person so horrifically and so deeply that one is unable to fully recover. Before we even had children, I had my speeches about private parts rehearsed and perfected. But even still, the fear lingers. I think it always will.

On top of all this, we don't live in the safest of neighborhoods. There are over 80 registered sex offenders within a mile of our home. Teenage girls have been abducted off the these very streets and trafficked. The greater school system we are a part of had already adopted a gender-neutral bathroom situation before Obama demanded it from on high. My kids don't participate in many extracurricular activities--partly because there's so many children to shuttle around, but mostly because I'm scared to leave them alone with anyone else. 

So, there's my humanity. I can say from the core of my being that I get it. The fear of it all, at least this aspect of the debate.  

Strange men being in the bathroom with you. People potentially planting recording devices. Daughters being assaulted in locker rooms. The rates of abuse are already so high--

as many as 1 in 10 children will be abused before the age of 18

--and now, it seems the government has opened wide the doors of privacy to allow predators even easier access. I get how all of those can be scary thoughts.

Much has already been said about all this, but I want to point out the fact that 

9/10 cases of sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and trusts

, not some stranger in a Target bathroom.

The same applies to the Sex Offender Database. Though it is nice to be able to easily identify people in proximity who have been caught and labeled, it's the ones who are not yet on the list that you need to worry about. Because they're people you'd never suspect; people that, on the outside, look just like you and I. They teach at your child's school, they drive the bus, they attend your church and they live next door. They are even more likely to be grandparents, uncles, and cousins.

The nauseating fact is, it won't be a Target bathroom that opens the door for your child to be abused, it will be YOU.

It will be me. 

And that is the core of the issue here and the source of all the fear--that we as parents will unintentionally expose our children to the very people that will hurt them and not even know it. Perhaps for years. Abusers can get close to a child because you and I know and trust them, too. 

I can barely stomach the thought. The weight of it is crushing. Because even if we talk to our children, equip them with information, guard them, protect them, and watch them--even if we do everything right and keep them safe--it may still happen, because there are situations out of our control.

So you can boycott Target if you want to, but at the end of the day, it's not going to make the world much safer for your little one. A predator won't stop to consider a sign on a restroom, anyways.

So what is a parent to do?

One of the best things you can do for your children, as with any vulnerable population group in the world, is educate them and give them a voice. 

At a very young age in our home, we start talking about body parts. We tell them that they are in charge of their own body, and if someone is doing anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, that they can say NO, and they won't be in trouble. It doesn't matter if it's an adult and adults are in charge--there are things even adults aren't allowed to do, regardless of what they say or threaten. But if something scary ever did happen to them, that 

it's not their fault.

But we go even further then that. We don't just warn them about the strange cars by the park or the adult who approaches them and talks about a lost puppy, but we discuss situations that would signal that something may be wrong involving someone they know. A person picking them up from school that usually doesn't. A teacher bringing them into a room alone and closing a door. A coach who is paying more attention to them then the rest of the team.

This isn't just a one-time conversation. It's often and it's ongoing. 

Parents, it's not Target's job to keep your kids safe. It never was. And while you can accompany them into the restroom at the store or use the Family bathroom (that's what we do), you most likely can't do the same thing at school. So please, please teach them appropriate boundaries and give them a voice! Empower them so they will know the right thing to do when you are not there to hold their hand. Lord willing it will be enough.

But you

 cannot impart what you do not possess. So parents, the absolute best thing you can do for your children is to get healthy yourself. 

Talk to somebody, get therapy, take some medication. Practice and model appropriate boundaries. Deal with your past junk. Show them how to have a voice and respectfully stick up for themselves. Hold people accountable when they cross the line and cause bodily harm in any way.

Aside from first and foremost the power of Jesus Christ, YOU are your child's single biggest weapon against the evil of this world. Don't take that responsibility lightly.

As parents, we should certainly do everything within our power to make sure our kids are safe, but we have a tendency in America to make an idol out of Safety. As a culture, we live in constant fear. Fear of our kids being hurt or abducted, falling on the playground, failing a class. Smearing dirt on our perfect reputation as parents by just being kids.

But there's probably a reason it says more than a hundred times in the Bible, 

"do not be afraid."

NOT, do not do things that make you afraid. 

NOT, do not be around people who make you afraid. 

NOT, do not go places that are scary.

Do not BE afraid.

But that IS our state of being these days, isn't it? As a people, as a country, and most embarrassingly, as a FAITH. And, I'll just be frank here, since we're all friends--that is not what we are called to, my dear Christian brothers and sisters.

Rather, we are called to LOVE one another.

We also know that perfect love casts out all fear. You see, fear is the enemy of love. Fear begins with a label--we name someone, or even an entire group of people, "other." 

These labels come with all sorts of misperceptions and stereotypes, and we boil down a beautiful, colorful, human being made in the image of God into a category: weird, different, strange, wrong, SINFUL...

And we get scared. Because we don't understand. And we don't know what to do. And we worry that they may hurt us or our children, or make it easier for other bad people to hurt our children, because they're different. Or strange. And because we are always trying to make sense out of our existence, we put them into the category of OTHER, and suddenly it's okay to not value them as a person loved by God. They become the enemy, which justifies our fear.

We hold up our idol of safety, and fear makes us not even want to touch anyone different than us with a 39.5 foot pole, let alone LOVE them.

The fact is, truly LOVING one another is dangerous. It will cost you, maybe everything. Just like it did Jesus.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." John 3:16-17, MSG

A son who would be threatened, plotted against, scorned, beaten...and finally hung on a cross.

For YOU.

For ME.

All because of God's embarrassing, audacious, unconditional, unfathomable LOVE for the world and all the messed up,sinful people in it.

How different things would've turned out if God's top priority had been keeping His Son SAFE.

Please, take a moment and chew on that one, because it took everything in me not to scream it in all caps.

Safety is important, but we turn it into an idol when we make it more important than people. We bow down to Safety when we make it more important than 


 people or doing the hard, scary things God sometimes calls people to do. Obedience trumps safety every time. Just ask Ananias, Moses, Esther, or Jonah, to name a few.

So safety, yes. But don't hide behind it as an excuse not to love. As a reason to put down and hurl insults. As a justification to boycott and walk away, to not engage in difficult things. Love will cost you, and if it doesn't, you're not doing it right. Love in real life is messy, uncomfortable, and hard.

Safety, yes. But not at the expense of people. Not at the expense of loving well. Not at the expense of obedience.

John 13:35 says,


our love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

But love involves speaking the truth, though, right? 

The thing about love is that it's hard to do on Facebook, where we do a lot of our living and preaching these days. It's hard to throw tangible love out into the internet whitespace. And truth--proclaimed at a deafening vibrato on the internet these days--though

still true

when carelessly flung out into the world of pixels,


just not effective.

I don't know about you, but I can't think of a single person who's come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of a moral internet debate or a bible verse posted in a comment section drawing attention to their transgressions.

Because the only way to speak the truth in love involves a human.

A human person to look at in the face, eye to eye. A human with feelings, convictions, and experiences, just like you. A person who, even on their worst day, is so much more like you than different. 

To speak the truth in love is a conversation, a relationship--not a status update. When the truth is haphazardly thrown out into the ether, it's often received like a heavy metal station. Just a bunch of loud, annoying noise. We've gotten in a bad habit of screaming from the rooftops what was meant to be communicated in a one-on-one or small group discipleship relationship. And it's just not working.

God doesn't need us to judge. That's His job.

God doesn't need us to convict. That's the Holy Spirit's job.

I think it's fair to say that He's plenty capable of doing His jobs without our help.

We tend to get our role confused, but the bible clearly says that the world will know we are His disciples by our LOVE for one another


The world will know we are different by our love. They're supposed to want what we have, and we're supposed to be ready with a reason for the hope that sets us apart. The hope that keeps us joyful amidst cultural chaos and gives us reason to remain faithful when it makes absolutely no sense. 

They will know we are Christians by our love.

So, I have to ask... do they?

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