(This was originally published in the January 04 edition of "ChurchActs" the newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)
I’ve been thinking about a line from 1 Corinthians (13:11) that says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I put away childish things.” That transformation, from child to adult, is what you’re going through when you’re a teenager. It saddens many parents how vehement some teens are about shedding anything and everything that smacks of “kid stuff”. The questions that nag at me are: “What qualifies as childish ways? Are there parts of childhood/youth that are worth keeping?” I have a few thoughts on making your way through the process from child to adult.
Don’t be in a hurry: Trust me, I’ve been an adult for over 20 years now and it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. You live in the best time and place in the history of the world to be a teenager. Take this time, use it, and yes, even enjoy it! The process takes time. As you’re going through it seems to take forever. How long? I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be through it when you graduate from High School. For some folks it can be years beyond that. The Book of Ecclesiastes (3:11) tells us that “everything has a season”. God gives you time so you can do it right. Use what He’s given you.
Change the World: When we’re young we believe fervently in things like “right” and “fair”. We believe that we can change the world. When we get old we get cynical. We get tired. Sometimes we give up. Don’t give up, hang onto the belief that you can change the world because you can. I’ll warn you, it’s harder than you expect and will take much longer than you want. Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has”. At the center of our Christian faith lies the call to change the world. How can we ever give up on such a calling?
Jesus Loves Me: It’s the lyric of children’s Sunday school song. It’s theology boiled down to its simplest form – Jesus/God loves me. Over the next decade or three you (and your church) will wrestle with many questions about right and wrong, form, function and faith. It will be all too easy to take your theological stand, ready to take on all comers, to battle to the last. You need to wrestle with the questions. As you walk deeper into life and faith the questions grow thicker and thornier. Never forget what you knew as a child. That beneath all the complexities and theology and yes, politics the answer is always simple. Jesus Loves You.
Have Fun: You may have noticed that an awful lot of adults seem to have had their “funny bone” surgically removed. It all comes from a belief that being an adult is “serious stuff”. There’s plenty of serious waiting for you as an adult. Pain, hurt and hard decisions. Being a parent can be the hardest, most painful, most terrifying, most wonderful job in the world. Same goes for being a husband/wife. Be very serious about the responsibilities that await you. Take yourself a little less seriously. Jesus calls us to a life of faith that fills our lives with joy. The only problem is when you don’t take the time to look for it. You’ll be surprised by where you find the fun sometimes.
I put away childish things. Yeah, the time comes to pack away the toys of childhood. Temper tantrums really don’t play well when you’re in High school. Boys and girls become men and women. Things start getting weird after that. Don't cast aside everything from childhood however. Hang on to the important stuff. When the process gets to be a hassle or when you’re finally an adult and the world starts to grind you down check out Philippians 4:13. Being an adult can be a lot of fun. Think about this – what part of their lives are adults most likely to miss? Being a teenager. It’s an amazing time in your life that will never come again. It’s wonderful and horrible and a time of transformation. Enjoy.