August 18th 2015 No comments yet
As I see students return to school once more, I am left reflecting on what it was like to be their ages. Especially when I look at teens transitioning into middle school and high school, my immediate reaction is, “Oh, you poor things.” This is because I am painfully aware of how lonely, lost, and nervous I felt during adolescence. Perhaps you can relate.
I remember that my sophomore year of high school, for example, was one of the roughest times in my history. I had given up dance classes after ten years, and my grades had started slipping to Bs and Cs for the first time ever. For the most part, my teachers and parents just thought I was suffering from typical teenage apathy. They did not realize my deep distraction and detachment came from a dark space of abuse in my life. I remember there was one teacher who cared enough to make an appointment with my father to ask if everything was okay at home. This led to some probing questions from my parents, which eventually helped guide me out of my bad situation, praise the Lord.
But I bear scars from those days. I learned lies in that time that run so deeply in my blood it’s taking years to flush them out. Lies about my self-worth, about my identity, about people’s expectations of me. In my teenage years I learned, falsely, that I have to be perfect to be worthy of love. Truly, that one lie has given me more grief than I can fit into a hundred blogs.
Today, I wonder how things would have been different if someone had met with me regularly, asking me what was going on in my life and in my heart. Someone who could share the truth I needed: that Jesus sacrificed Himself for me despite my imperfections. That out of love He suffered, died, and rose again to defeat what tries to drag me down. That He wants me. That I matter simply because I’m His creation, that I cannot earn His marvelous grace, and that He doesn’t expect me to.
If I had been taught those truths in adolescence, would I grapple with the anxiety I have had since then? Would I panic over perfectionism and control? Though I cannot change my history, I can change the future for teens who are facing those same lies today.
I believe it’s common for teenagers to ask the questions I asked—Why am I here? Am I the only one who feels this way? What will everyone think of me if I mess up? Does anybody really notice me, love me, or care? To grow beyond those fears, teenagers need mature mentors who are present both physically and mentally, ready to listen and engage. Through our presence as seasoned adults, the Holy Spirit can give the younger generations the answers they need: You are here for a reason. You are not alone. You are loved even though you are not perfect. Jesus is the answer to all of your doubts and fears.
You personally can be the mentor sharing vital truths with teens and preteens. Right here at Stonebriar, we are in need of small group leaders for fifth and sixth graders, junior high students, and senior high students. Being a small group leader is an opportunity to change the course of teens’ lives for the better. In this role, you can be the adult who sees bad signs and does something to help; you can be the adult to coax a shy preteen out of her shell or to ask the rowdy teen boy why he feels he has to act up.
Think for a moment about what you were like as a teenager and ask yourself, “How would my life be different if I’d had a godly mentor?” If you want one less teenager to have to ask that question in twenty years, fill a role as a mentor today.
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