“I Don’t Know What I Want to Do!” Chapter 9.1

Posted: March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Hope. The famous agnostic Ingersoll called hope “a universal liar” and Nietzsche considered it “the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.” They echo the voice of Good Friday. Engulfed by present circumstances, unprepared by our past, and uncertain of our future. Death, despair, and shattered dreams are presented as the final answer.

But those who follow Christ are not a people of Good Friday. We are an Easter people. Good Friday is part of our past, but it is not our present!! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive forevermore! The Risen Lord is our present reality and future hope. Because we live in Easter, our Good Friday moments have meaning.

Adolescents are not naturally a people of hope. Idealism, yes. Dreams and fantasies about the future, absolutely. But not mature hope.

The ‘future’ is a new experience for adolescents. Infants and young children live in the present. They have almost no historical sense. They are absorbed in what is. That is, in fact, one of the attractions of childhood – the capacity to lose oneself completely in the now. But in adolescence the capacity to imagine forward, to plan ahead, to anticipate, awakens…the ‘future‘ is no longer dreams and wishes to be indulged, but a spectrum of possibilities that must be planned for. (p. 71)

The kind of robust hope that inhabits the Christian faith is the very context adolescents need to process and sift through “this sudden inrush of future.” The Christian doctrine of hope allows us to move beyond the shallow impotency of wishing and paralyzing fretfulness of anxiety. These emotional red herrings allow us to project our own fears and our own hopes into the future, while avoiding grappling with life in the present.

Between this Scylla and Charybdis the Christian church teaches hope. Hope is a response to the future which has its foundation in the promises of God. It looks to the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety in to the future, but instead believes that God’s prmisse gives the proper content to it. But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present, it is a stance in the present which deals with the future…Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future with the promises of God, opens up the future as a field or action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.” (p. 73 emphasis added)

As Peterson points out, there is a group of people who need hope even more than adolescents. Parents of adolescents!

Peterson names acedia (a spiritual sloth or indifference) and tristesse (a sadness and melancholy) as two afflictions of the middle aged. He points out that our whole culture in North America functions to manipulate and make a profit out of the faded hopes as well as the fears of a population whose present feels unfulfilled and whose future seems no longer to hold as much promise.

Our Hope is a person, not a projection of our own inadequacy. The Risen Jesus Christ. He knows our past better than we. He is our future. He gives us power and purpose to live in the present.

What does that look like for you today to say no to sloth….to melancholy….to indifference…to wishful thinking….to procrastination….to anxiety and say YES to Jesus?

What does that look like for you to walk that out in the living laboratory with your teen as you talk about money…the opposite sex…house rules…grades….failure…idealism…faded hopes…and Good Friday?

I’m looking forward to hearing your story.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

(This post is inspired by chapter 9 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 4 weeks to become part of the discussion).

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