Archive for January, 2013

Adolescents, in an attempt to find the sources of their own being and arrive at self-definition, sometimes use the device of denial or rejection. In search of personal faith they reject everything that is impersonal or institutional.” (p.22)

Peterson points out that “children” are learners and adults are “deciders.” As adolescents begin to practice and experiment with decision-making, it puts the adults in their lives in a less comfortable position.

We are unavoidably a part of the decisions, confusions, roller coasters of emotions, and yes, the high points of great clarity of the young people with whom we are close. Our temptation in the middle of all that may be to provide some rapid stability, to “fix” the sentiments that seem “wrong,” and perhaps even to respond personally to the denial and rejections.

Okay, so here is the 100-million-dollar question: How do we take things less personally?

I find myself suddenly thin-skinned at unexpected moments. I didn’t see it coming. After 26 years of youth/young adult ministry and five teens of my own I thought I understood enough to rise above. I know in my head that the moments of rejection, personal attacks, even accusatory comments that are part of this world say more about the person generating them than the person receiving them. And I know that in the world of teens and young adults the person generating them does not generally even have the self-awareness to know what they are doing. But still I find myself embracing darts and licking wounds.

How about you? Do you find yourself embracing and “stewing” over remarks that are not premeditated and quickly forgotten…instead of rejoicing that the process of maturity is at work in a young person’s life?

I freely admit this is tougher in the area of faith than any other arena. I can flex on almost any other issue. But my faith and the rituals that help me express my faith are central to who I am. Can I really allow kids that I love to wrestle with doubt…to push away from my rituals…to challenge my expressions and experience of faith…while I am trusting God to complete His work in them!?

I’ve got way more questions than answers here…but I serve a trustworthy God! His faithfulness is my confidence. Meanwhile, what have you learned to help you navigate these waters well?

(This post is inspired by chapter 3 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 10 weeks to become part of the discussion.

Any child of moderate perception, having lived for over a decade under the same roof with parents, knows that just because they are Christians and go to church on Sundays does not mean they are also saints. The child knows they sin daily. Now is the time to talk about that.” (p. 24)

Is Eugene Peterson right? Those of us with children have a lot invested in our kids. Is a polished image, an intense public relations campaign and a handful of success stories the best way to pass on our faith…to make disciples? Or does adolescence allow us as parents the wonderful gift of stripping all that away and becoming real again?

Who were some of the first adults who shared their authentic walk with you? How did that make a difference in your owning your faith?

(This post is inspired by chapter 3 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 9 weeks to become part of the discussion.

Only two comments on the book blog. Not quite the discussion I envisioned yet! 🙂

However, WordPress tells me that there have been 336 views from 7 countries as we have explored the first two chapters together.

Also one person caught me in person at a ballgame to say that they have their book marked up and are sharing it with four others. That was great to hear!

I take these two items as confirmation that this is being helpful. Let me know if there are ways it could become more so!

I recently heard the world’s most foremost expert on millipedes explain why he had left his research to go into student ministry. He decided that God was worthy of his best effort and there was no more strategic thing he could do to change the world.

I agree. Thanks for loving teens. I’m blessed to walk this journey with you.

Every choice a youth makes – even choices on seeming insubstantial affairs like hairstyles and clothing – is part of a process in which he is learning to make choices that will make him (or her) what he will be in Christ.

I will blog on our next chapter later today. But first I would like to revisit I Samuel 3.

At my church (First Methodist) in Tulsa, for the next two Sundays I will be talking about adolescence and the issues of identity, autonomy/power, and belonging. You are welcome to come at 10:05 to the junior high room in the new youth wing. I Samuel 3 would be great reading in preparation.

Adolescence is a time of seeking identity. Who am I? Does this mask fit? But the common and well-meaning refrains of “be all you can be” or “fulfill your potential” or “you can do anything you set your mind to” are hollow and misguided. These mantras do nothing to help form true identity. And as Peterson points out, there is nothing of the Christian gospel in them.

Eugene Peterson: “…young Samuel is a paradigm for the adolescent experience: he hears his name pronounced in a new way, a way that calls forth his identity; eventually he recognizes that it is God who is pronouncing the name, that his new life is created in newness by God.” (p. 17)

There is a sense in which at each life stage we can understand and must claim anew the gift that God gives us – Himself. The child who has “received Jesus Christ into his or her heart” will need to rediscover Christ as a friend….and Lord…and so on.

The calling of Samuel by God reflects both that God is calling Samuel in a new way, and that it is God Himself calling. God knows Samuel by name. He calls him not as Elkanah and Hannah’s child or as Eli’s protoge, but as Samuel. “It is when he recognizes himself as one named by God that he finds the full content of ‘Samuel’” (p. 15)

In adolescence every system we have is in rapid flux. But we are not defined by any of them – not our sexuality or the development of our cerebral cortex or our social standing or our emotional well-being. We are ultimately defined by our most significant reality – our relationship with God. Does this encourage you? Does it help bring perspective? Does it seem scary? How does the story of Samuel in I Samuel 3 speak to you as a parent or as a friend of teens?

(This post is inspired by chapter 2 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 10 weeks to become part of the discussion.)

Adolescence is the time when we become ourselves,” says Eugene Peterson. I wonder…perhaps that is part of what unnerves us as parents. We are not completely at ease at who we have become…or are becoming. And so we hope to exert some control, some direction, so that our kids might turn out better than we did.

Yet we as parents are not done becoming. We have selective memory. And we forget how important it was to begin to decide things for ourselves. To become themselves young people need to make choices and to live into those choices as they are becoming. As “the young person develops the capacity to make responsible decisions, these decisions provide the raw material for self-identity.” (p. 12)

What choices did your parents allow you to make….or perhaps circumstances forced you to make…as a teen that helped shape you?

When my best friend’s parents began a mission organization and moved to Italy to be its first missionaries, I was in third grade. They invited me to come visit them anytime. My parents said that once I had earned enough money for my own plane ticket, I could go.

They should have factored in my determination and competitiveness. I immediately began a lawn mowing business and was soon walking my little lawn mower all over town, mowing over 20 yards a week. I saved everything after tithe and had my ticket earned by the summer after 6th grade. My parents stood by their promise and I flew from Lexington to Pittsburgh to JFK airport in New York and then to Rome without them to spend five weeks. The conversation I had with a Roman Catholic sister who was my seatmate from New York to Rome proved pivotal as I began to own my faith for myself.

I had to make a lot of choices on the road to that trip and during the five weeks I was there. My parents let me make them. I was reminded of this by my then 17 year old daughter when she wanted to take a gap year and head overseas a few years ago. She was right. I gave her my blessing!

I am still stunned sometimes to think of what my parents did for me in allowing me to earn and to take that trip. It can’t have been easy for them. But the process shaped me. It directly impacted my work ethic, my faith, my eventual parenting, my character, and a lot more.

That is a pretty dramatic example. Maybe you didn’t go to Rome in junior high, but your parents did let you make some choices that were significant for you. Would you tell us about one and the difference it made for you?

(This post is inspired by chapter 2 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 10 weeks to become part of the discussion.)

I love the story of Samuel responding to the call of God! (I Samuel 3) Take a few minutes and reread it with me. How can this great story be the story of adolescent growth?

(This post is inspired by chapter 2 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 10 weeks to become part of the discussion.)

What was the most incredible gift you have ever received? Was it for Christmas or a birthday? Or maybe no reason at all. Does it still bring back memories and feelings today?

On the other hand, have you ever received a gift that you didn’t fully appreciate until later…maybe much later? Now, I’m not talking about the hand-crocheted doll-size winter cap from Grandma or the decades old cassette tape from Uncle Tim. No, what about one you didn’t recognize its value….or took for granted…or even wanted to return?

Probably all of us who are parents remember the incredible joy of becoming a parent. What an amazing gift of God an infant is! But in his book, Like Dew Your Youth, Eugene Peterson describes adolescence as a “gift” to parents….a gift that Christian parents are “most advantageously placed to recognize, appreciate and receive.” When I first read those words, my reaction was a mixture of being startled, having questions, and at the same time sensing something stirring deep inside me that felt like relief.

How do his words strike you? Have you encountered “the gift” of adolescence? What has that gift looked like in your world?

This short chapter is a rich one! What impacted you the most as you read?

Peterson talks about grace, about developing new skills, about blind spots, about the danger of detachment. I especially had to chew on that last one for awhile. In any given area, what is the difference between being detached and having faith?

I just visited with two different people…one who eagerly was hoping to “get it right” parenting their budding adolescent, another who was mourning the pain and the sense of inadequacy that had come with their child’s teenage years. I identified easily with both. I have five children between the ages of 13 and 21. I have lived at times enmeshed in both those worlds….at the same time!

As I prayed over those conversations, I was encouraged by Peterson’s reminder that by God’s grace, parenting does not define who we are. “A parent’s main job is not to be a parent, but to be a person.” So the job I do as a parent does not define me, but it can shape me. Wow.

I know this: If adolescence is not a problem to be solved, but a gift, a sort of “living labratory” in which I have the “opportunity to take the data of growing up, work experiments with it in personal ways, and then reexperience it as an act of faith to the glory of God,” then by the grace of God I want to open the gift….and go into the lab…every single day!

(This post is inspired by chapter 1 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 11 weeks to become part of the discussion.)