Posts Tagged ‘adolescence’

Authority loses its moral force and spiritual energy when it becomes authoritarian.” (Peterson, p.36)

A dictator in a home or in a nation chooses the way of quick returns…There can be a subtle parental pride in exactuing obedience, much like bringing a dog to heel. ‘Good’ children can be displayed, to the parent’s advantage.” (Lionel Whiston, quoted in Peterson, p. 38)

When I graduated from college I moved hundreds of miles from home for my first full-time job. I was engaged, but not yet married. I knew only one other person in the city. So I bought myself a puppy and began to teach him with my spare time. It quickly occured to me that if I trained him to be obedient, he could come with me to the YMCA where I was a volunteer soccer coach. It was rewarding to me to see how quickly he learned and how consistently he obeyed. As a result of significant and consistent attention for those first six months we were together before the wedding, I received praise for the rest of his life for how well mannered and well trained he was. I honestly enjoyed that and began to take some pride in what I good parent I would “obviously” be someday.

The Lord had to humble me after I had my first two children. One day He pulled back a veil from my eyes and let me see my pride and my foolishness. I was not training puppies, I was raising children. I had to weep and repent! He was the primary parent, not me. It was my privilege to join Him. I suddenly saw parenting in terms of stewardship and hospitality, not behavioral outcomes!

Peterson gets at this same issue, I think, when he quotes John Updike on the importance of seeing our children “not as our creations, but our guests, people who enter the world at our invitation…”

Do you agree? When we see parenting in terms of stewardship and hospitality instead of behavioral outcomes, how does that change things? Does that impact decision-making within the family? Does this mean we have to be willing to be embarrassed at times? What does this mean for allowing disagreement? How will parenting like this increase our own discipleship?

Erik Erikson suggests that the problem with forcing obedient behavior is that the parent does not have to become an adult to do so. You don’t have to grow up. You don’t have to learn courtesy or deference or understanding. You are in fact authorized to remain arbitrary and inconsistent. It seems to me that if authority is framed by “because I said so!” then the world view being taught is that whoever is the strongest wins. That may be practical in politics, but it is not a Kingdom worldview. And it is destructive to discipleship.

Peterson uses Luke 2:41-51 to demonstrate that authority when challenged does not bluster, is courteous and is not coercive. He also encourages us to meditate on the authority of our Heavenly Father. He disciplines, but He does not push His children around. How do you understand the discipline of the Lord from Scripture? Is the model craftsman with an apprentice a good model? What is the role of training and instruction? Do you agree with Peterson that “the heart of discipline, and the most biblical expression of authority, is careful attention that guides growth“?

(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).

“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).

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.

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.)

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.)