The Gift of Adolescence

Posted: January 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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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.)

  1. Enrique Sifuentes says:

    I have found that on occasion, more recently than any other time, I want to give the ‘gift’ back.Not to get a refund or exchange, but because the ‘gift’ possibly came to me by accident. I pray that God would show me what to do with the ‘gift’, but it just seems I don’t know where the batteries go or something. The biggest problem I see with our ;gift’s’ we get is that they never come with an instruction manual and even worse, my ‘gift’ came with a mind of their own!!

    • halhamilton says:

      Thanks, Enrique. I can relate. For me personally, I have had times – even seasons – of feeling completely inadequate and irrelevant. It has taken me to my knees. I have learned and am learning so much about mercy and grace in the process. I’m not sure I ever will become my idea of the great parent….but the Lord is sure developing me as a person. And meanwhile He is doing a grand job with my kids!

      • halhamilton says:

        I’m still chewing on this chapter. You too? Or just getting to it? Jump on in!

        “There is a strong Christian conviction, substantiated by centuries of devout thinking and faithful living, that everything given to us in our bodies and in our world is the raw material for holiness.” (p. 5)

        I love this. And it challenges me.

        It cries out to me ‘Don’t circle the wagons…don’t retreat….engage!’ And ‘I am with you, to the very end of the age!’

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