Posts Tagged ‘parents’

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.)

The Winding Road is Jeffrey Jensen Arnett name for the period from the late teens through the twenties.    Arnett sees emerging adults (as he calls them) identifying three  cornerstones for becoming an adult:  accepting responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions , and becoming financially independent.  If he is right, then a bit of consensus is beginning to emerge for an cultural “marker” that would identify adulthood.  Years ago, I saw a study that looked at close to 20 possible markers in our culture (everything from driver’s license to voting  to marriage).  The question was asked “When in our culture are you considered an adult?”  The winner was financial independence….with only about 17% percent!

If you have crossed that threshold already, when did you consider yourself an adult?

Tomorrow I am part of a panel at a local high school to talk to parents, teachers and other friends of adolescents about staying connected to teens as they move along  this “winding road.”  You, reader, are a rich resource.  I have already listened to my college students and my  children.  I have reflected on what I have learned through study and experience.  The crowning piece would be to add your voice to my preparation!

Now or later, your thoughts on the following would be appreciated:

  • What should parents do/not do to stay connected with their teens?
  • How do parents keep the bond strong while making space for Arnett’s three cornerstones to be established?
  • What are some of the best ways for the faith community to support families?
  • What is the role of doubt…and failure…and risk?

Thanks in advance for joining the conversation!