by Dale Hanson Bourke
The sun had just risen over the Chesapeake Bay when my son shook me awake.
“Time for our adventure,” he announced. I groaned, glanced at the clock, and tried to think of something that would convince him to let me sleep a little while longer.
“It’s too early. The crabs are still asleep,” I replied in a groggy but authoritative voice.
“But, Mom,” he pleaded. It was guilt that finally drove me out of bed. I had promised him an adventure that morning, a time when he wouldn’t have to share me with his little brother. I could see the excited look on his face even with only one eye half open. Sitting up in bed, I tried to quiet Chase down as I pointed to his once-sleeping father.
Pulling my clothes on, I went through a quick checklist of gear: crab net, bucket, towel, string, bait. My stomach turned at the thought of the raw chicken necks in the refrigerator. Why are crabs attracted to such disgusting things? I wondered. Then I laughed to myself. Part of what attracted my son to this “sport” was the chance to watch me cringe at the sight of raw chicken hanging on a string.
Walking down the hill on our way to the water, Chase chattered excitedly. “Do you think we’ll catch lots and lots of them, Mom?” “Will you tell me if we catch a baby and have to throw him back?” “Can crabs jump out of the bucket and come get you?”
I listened to this little man-child with amusement. One minute he bragged about his ability to catch crabs, even though he had never gone crabbing before, and the next he was afraid. Last night at bedtime, he had prayed, “And please help me be very brave when I go to catch crabs.” He clutched my hand as we walked, and I knew he was a little nervous about this unknown experience. But he trusted me, and I promised I wouldn’t let any crabs “come get him.”
I laid our towel out on the dock in a little ceremony meant to help him appreciate our adventure. Out of the bag came string and dripping chicken pieces ready to attract our prey. We sat on the towel, eased our lines into the water, and waited.
Less than thirty seconds had passed when Chase asked, “Should we check our lines, Mom?”
“No, Chase. You’ll feel a crab pulling on the line.”
Another thirty seconds passed. “You think we need to find a better spot?”
“No, Chase,” I replied. “We just have to be patient.”
Chase shifted on the towel and peered into the water. “I sure don’t see any crabs in there.”
Suddenly, his string moved. “Mom, help!” Chase yelled, nearly dropping the string. He grabbed me as I reached for the net. “We got one,” he announced to the world. And then, “Careful, don’t let him get us.”
The net wrapped around the Maryland Blue, and I lifted him out of the water, legs thrashing, mouth still holding the chicken. He fell into our bucket with a plunk, opening and closing his claws menacingly.
Chase stood back, eyeing him suspiciously. “Are you sure he can’t get out?” he questioned. I assured my son of his safety. “Maybe we should put him back now so he can breathe,” Chase said.
Breathe? I wondered for a moment why this mattered—and then I understood. My son did not know that most people catch crabs in order to eat them.
We netted two more crabs before we decided to show them off, then throw them back into the bay. As we carried our bucket back to the cottage, Chase began to play one of his favorite games. “Mom, why did God make trees?” he asked.
“To give us shade and wood,” I replied.
“Why did God make chickens?”
“To give us eggs and meat,” I told him. “And crab bait.”
“Why did God make crabs?” he asked, and I realized that he suspected the worst.
I debated over my answer as I saw the look of concern in his eyes. Then divine inspiration struck: “So we could have an adventure,” I said.
My son smiled at me as he took my hand, holding on to innocence just a little while longer.
Children are born into this world as precious creations of God. They are filled with a purity and innocence that we parents should attempt to preserve whenever possible. This doesn’t mean that our babies are born innately “good,” as some would have us believe. Scripture reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), babies included. That is why even the youngest of children soon display tendencies toward rebellion and selfishness. Yet these youngsters are still innocent lambs entering a world filled with hungry wolves; they are absolutely dependent on their parents for protection and guidance.
When God formed Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, they were innocent in their nakedness and in their understanding of the world. But when Eve listened to the serpent and she and Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened, and they covered themselves (Genesis 3:6–7). Their innocence was permanently lost.
Our culture is filled with serpents that attempt to fill the minds of our children with evil. These predators include drug pushers, unprincipled movie and television producers, sex abusers, abortion providers, heavy-metal freaks, and many who inhabit the Internet. Once our children encounter these evils, their innocence—just like Adam and Eve’s—is gone forever.
We’ll talk more this week about our culture’s relentless assault on innocence—and about how you can preserve the simple, pure spirits of your children by heeding the words of Scripture: “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19).
- James C Dobson
Holding On to Innocence” by Dale Hanson Bourke. From Everyday Miracles by Dale Hanson Bourke (Nashville, Tenn.: Word Publishing, 1989). Used by permission of the author.