The teenage years in America are difficult for sure, and our movie and music industries continually capitalize on its’ awkwardness and angst. As a leader of a teen-girl Bible Study, I often hear the “going on’s” of the middle school halls, many of which are spot-on to the scripts and lyrics, but let me tell you about one doozy that happened recently. We had wrapped up our Friday gathering, this week addressing “the big elephant” in the room of two friends not speaking to each other. The tension was high, tears were flowing, as neither would apologize or admit to their part of the fall-out, yet the ten others were begging them to make-up and for it to be how it used to be.
Because we are talking about twelve and thirteen year-old girls, who were sugared-up on cupcakes and strawberries, the ten were bouncing from couch to arm chair, giving hugs and encouragement. They were claiming they weren’t taking sides anymore, and offering that they would holding lunch seats open for when the two wanted to return.
Simple. Straight-Forward and exactly what Jesus asks us to do. (1Corinthians 1:10)
About a year ago, our group studied Matthew 18:15-17:“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”.
We discussed the steps to handle this situation: go directly to the person who is hurting your feelings, ask for reconciliation. Only get one more involved if necessary, thus avoiding gossip and breaking of confidences. These girls weren’t ready to cast either friend out “as a pagan”, yet clearly this lesson was hazy for some (who am I kidding, probably all of us can relate!) as steps had been skipped, resulting in the two besties no longer talking, purposely sharing the others secrets, screen-sharing past confidences as well as dislikes about others in the group. It had gotten nasty and neither wanted reconciliation. Typical girl drama, right?
As we closed in prayer and the girls headed outside to play laser tag, the other mom leader and I were discussing how awesome the world would be if parents taught and modeled Matthew 18:15:
- What if spouses and friends addressed their “big elephants” of hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and missed expectations?
- What if we didn’t spread stories of “how we were wronged”, what if we didn’t try to one-up or alienate others?
- What if forgiveness was given before even requested? And …
…But this discussion will have to wait for another day, because that’s when the doozy occurred, that’s when we were approached by our newest member. She asked if we could talk. I’ll be honest, I mentally prepared myself to hear more backstabbing scenarios. So her request was a surprise. Her request was to be baptized! What a doozy – what a counter-cultural, awesome decision. She had been baptized as a baby, but wanted to make the decision herself. She shared a story of sitting quietly, talking to God and being struck by how amazing God is and how powerful His love is; “it’s like a thousand fires burning in my heart!” She wants Jesus officially in her heart. We hugged her and said yes. In that doozy of a request, we received a direct message from God: we are on the right track teaching these teens an alternative way.
“Train up a child in the way she should go; even when she is old she will not depart from it”. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Her request reminds me of Jesus’ baptism: requested as he was officially starting his ministry; led by his cousin John the Baptist, whom he loved and trusted; with His family (all three persons of the Trinity) present: God the Father speaks, God the son is baptized, God the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. (read Matthew 3:13-17)
And the surprises continued, as a mom of twins texted saying her daughters want to get baptized too. Then again, as my spiritual mentor summarized how God’s Glory was shining on these teen-girls and on my family, as we are striving to bring Christ to our neighborhood. She urged me to spark conversation with all the girl’s parents to see what is holding them back from living a life for Jesus? Because if they agreed, why not baptize the entire family!
WOW! To think our sweet teen girls are leading their entire family to salvation! (Romans 10:9-13). Also, my reaction of DUH! …since it was my ten-year-old son who prompted our family to get baptized together on a mission trip in Nicaragua. He had a clear prompting from the Lord that he wanted Jesus in his heart, and as a young evangelist, why not spur his sister and dad into the water too! Don’t you just love how God takes one spark and blows it into a flame that gets fanned in so many directions?
Why do children hear so clearly? Kids get Jesus. They don’t double guess, hedge their bets or over think the situation. (Read Luke 18:16, Matthew 18:6)
We are all wired for Jesus’ love and his moral compass. When we get to know him, we feel the familiarity and acceptance that was created inside of us. We understand that we are chosen! This is popular group you want to be part of: to be known by the Most High. Once we are in the It (Jesus) clique, we protect it, never wanting to lose it, yet happy to share it with others, because it is better than anything we’ve bought, made or desired.
I am in awe of the Lord as He is guiding these girls so early in their development. I am privileged to witness how they are changing the script and the lyrics and demonstrating how fun and beautiful the teen years can be. They are already maturing as faith-guides to their family and friends, what a surprisingly different and fabulous generation of women they will be when they don’t pursue perfectionism ((we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and made perfect in Christ (Hebrews 11:39-40)); don’t have anxiety ((Cast all your anxiety on Christ (1 Peter 5:6-7)); love friend and foe (Matthew 5:43-48); encourage forgiveness and repentance (John 20:21-23 and James 5:13-16) and desire to be a submissive helper to their husband (Genesis 2:18-25 and Proverbs 31)!
As I praise God for all He is already doing to build-up their self-coined “crazy Christian mojo”, I also pray for you reader, to grab onto this spark when you experience the presence of God, ask him to draw closer to you, and let him speak into your needs, because, really, it only takes a spark!
Please pray with me …
Heavenly Father, please keep sparking us toward your alternative lifestyle, work in us as we try to become more and more like Christ. Let us emotionally and mentally KNOW we are chosen by you and made perfect by your son. Continue to bring surprises of your love and mercy throughout our day. You are such a generous Father, thank you for continuing to pursue us. (adapted from 1 Peter 1-2).
(as published for Good Word Project June 2019)