I just spent the weekend at our senior high youth group retreat. All I can say is it was fun,
awesome and hard. It was hard for me me physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually.It’s easy for me to tell you why it was hard physically and emotionally. It was hard because I’m 40 and acted like a teenager. My body is still reminding me days later of that.
But spiritually is harder to explain.
I spent the weekend with these incredible young people. They are funny, witty, talented, gifted, smart, and they never cease to amaze me. I feel privileged to be one of their youth group leaders. And even though I’m old enough to be their mom, (my three teens are in the group)they always make me feel welcome. That is one of the many traits that shows their true character. The other thing that amazes me is their hunger for God and their willingness to seek after the answers to how to feed that hunger. The camp was awesome, but what was really awesome is how God showed up.
These young men and women praise God and welcome his presence and are chasing after Him more and more each week. But I do find my self asking the question of why are these
teenagers, as well as most teenagers and young people so often overlooked?
I have three teens. No matter what they tell you, or how many books you read nothing prepares you for raising teens. It’s hard! There is so much pressure as a parent to do the right thing. But I think we, as parents, as teachers, and grown ups forget that the teens feel just as much pressure, if not more, than we do. It is, after all, their life too.
It’s hard as a parent to recognize that your child is no longer a kid. The years go so fast, it’s just hard to see it sometimes. Yet we expect so much for our teens.
So here’s the part that that affected me so profoundly this weekend. We expect so much from our teens. And most of the time we focus on their grades, on whether they have done their chores, are they getting along with their siblings and friends, are they focused too much on the opposite sex, will they get into college, and what are they going to do with the rest of their lives?
But we forget to ask the really important questions. Do they have character? Are they well
rounded? Are they happy and comfortable in their skin? Do they still love to learn like they did when they were little? And the most importance question. Do they have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Now I don’t mean are they saved, but do they have relationship? These kids need a relationship with Christ to face the world. Let’s face it, life is hard even when you have a great relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship, we have nothing, and all else is in vain.
Sometimes I think we as grow ups get in Gods way. He wants to lead our teens and meet them where they are, but we as adults, get in His way. We don’t meet them where they are. We don’t listen. I sometimes think we even look at them as less because they are still children. What we need to do is ask God for guidance during this critical time in their lives.
When my kids were still young, I was having an awful day. I went in my room and cried. I asked God to help me with my kids. He simply told me to stop trying to be everything they needed and do everything right for them. He said “you are not their savior, I am”. Point them to me. Now I’m not saying that the academics, the grades, the chores, the obedience, and all are not important. They are important. But what I’m saying is a person’s character and their relationship with Christ is more important. The most important. In fact, with a great relationship with Jesus Christ and great character the other things will take care of themselves.
So many of our teens are broken and hurting. They are confused and stressed out. We put so much pressure on them to have it all figured out by the time they graduate, that we, sometimes, miss the easy answer. More time and more of God in their life and the understanding that it’s okay to not have all the answers.
One thing we have to remember is that our kids don’t really belong to us. They belong to God. He created them with a purpose. We, as parents, must seek after God and ask how to raise our kids. We must ask who he designed them to be. We must encourage them in their God given gifts and help them be who he has called them to be and not just who we think they should be.
I know it’s hard, but we can do it. If you, yourself don’t have a relationship with Christ that’s the place to start. Then we also must understand that we are going to fail and get things wrong as parents and leaders in children’s lives. So, we must forgive ourselves and start each day new. We must open our minds and know that Gods ways are not our ways. We need to seek God and ask him to lead us and then follow that direction. We must use discernment for the seasons of our kids lives. We must give them the chance to grow, test things out, to fail, to succeed, and to be themselves, knowing that we love them no matter what. And that they will make mistakes.
The teen years are hard for both teens and parents. But it is training ground for adulthood. A time when kids become adults and learn how to stand on their own two feet. And hopefully a time when they are developing their own personal relationship with Christ.
I will leave you with this thought. I look at the teen years as a time that it is safe for my kids to try things and fail. And I don’t mean trying out sinful things, though that does happen too. But I mean new and different ways of doing things and learning along the way. Yes, they still need boundaries, but much bigger boundaries than when they were ten, they need room to grow. I love analogies. God speaks to me in pictures. God showed me a picture of parenthood being like rock climbing. I’m anchored in and my kids are tied around my waist. I would rather they fall off the edge now, while anchored to me, than to fall off once they are on their own, because it can be a long way down. While anchored to me they have a safety net so to speak. A place to come back to and talk about their mistakes. A place to be loved and hopefully a place where we point them back to the only one with all the answers. Our savior, Jesus Christ.
So if you are struggling as a parent, or even as a teen reading this. Have hope. It won’t always be this way and you will get through the tough teenage years. Look to God, because he is the only one who knows all. He will get you through. And if you mess up, as a parent or a teen, know that we all make mistakes and that failing down is part of life, but you can’t stay there. So, pick yourself up, dust your self off, thank God he’s always with us and move on down the road, knowing that there are better days ahead.