“But once the child reaches adolescence the parents must spend much more time and attention on the way they exercise authority and correspondingly less on worrying whether obedience is forthcoming.
(p. 31 emphasis added)

I love this chapter. It challenges me, it encourages me and it invites me to be transformed! Here is one of Peterson’s great paragraphs:

“Challenges to personal authority – commonplace in adolescence – cannot be settled simply by quoting Saint Paul: ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ Adolescents are quite likely to have read the letter to the Ephesians, too, and able to do some quoting of their own: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.'” (Ephesians 6:1, 4)

I believe that we teach much about reality…and do much to shape worldview in the way we handle power and authority. I believe our internal hard-wiring to ask “Why?” at an early age is a gift that is foundational to the discipleship of both the child and the parent. Take your own experience out of the equation for a few minutes and think with me:

* What does the answer “because I said so!” or “because I am the parent?” communicate about authority….about power?
* What does it teach about who (or Who) is in control?
* How important is it for the young child to hear an answer that reveals that we are under authority…that we ourselves are accountable….that we are stewards…that God is love and we are His imperfect agents?
* Have you ever thought about the question “why?” (in all its forms) as a gift from God to your own sanctification?

When a young person moves into early adolescence they begin to attempt to appropriate for him or herself what they have learned. As they seek a healthy level of autonomy, how do we best teach about authority and power? Is it helping them to act in the role of a child….or an adult?

Like a belayer letting out more rope for the climb and yet holding the climber secure, how do we do navigate this adventure?

The One who belays us is LOVE. And He calls us to be like Him. So perhaps the critical question is “What does LOVE do with power? What is the source of His authority?

Andrew Murray talks about Revelation 7:17 being the most important verse in literature anywhere in all of history.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

What this verse reveals is absolutely unthinkable, unknowable aside from Divine Revelation. And it is central to understanding reality. Authority is not about raw exercise of power, position, popularity, who you know, how much money you have, whether others like you, or any such thing. Power itself is not what holds the universe together.

The Pantocrator, the One who rules all things, is revealed as LOVE – both in who He is and what He does. At the center of the throne is a lamb who is a shepherd. Are you shouting praises, reader!? This is amazing revelation! The result of wrestling with that verse and all of its implications years ago forever changed me, my worldview, my parenting and my ministry.

Adolescence provides a wonderful opportunity for us to examine afresh if our practice of power and authority is harsh, crushing, demonic, positional, etc or if it is the often messy, always nurturing and sometimes painful surrender to LOVE.

Tell me what you think. And get a book. 🙂 This is good stuff!

(This post is inspired by chapter 4 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 8 weeks to become part of the discussion).

Comments
  1. John says:

    This is a great post and very relevant. I will use some of these thoughts and questions in mediating an ongoing parent and teen conflict. Thanks!

  2. halhamilton says:

    Thanks, John! ALways great to hear from you.

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