Thursday, May 26

Being With Teens

Two posts ago, we established the problem we have in relating to teens. They make us anxious and we make them anxious. With all of our good intentions, we want to work on them like projects. In their humanness, they resist this form of manipulation. We need to learn how to simply be with our teens in a healthy way. After establishing the problem, the next post addressed part of the solution, learning to be present with God as training for being present with teens. I hope you took some time to enter God's presence and simply be with him. If not, please go back to the previous post and give it a shot.

In part three of three, we'll apply what we learned about being present with God to our relationships with young people.

In John 6, Jesus tells his disciples that no one can come to him unless the Father calls him. No one comes to Jesus unless God calls them. As a minister and a missionary, no other passage provides so much relief. It is not my eloquence or hipness or charisma that brings people to Jesus, but God's call. What a relief that this is out of my hands! When we relate to our teens, we sometimes feel a deep urge from within to push them where we want them to go. With the best of intentions, we point them in the right direction, then gently push. Then the push becomes a shove, then a kick. Then we try dragging them in the right direction. Naturally, they resist. We would probably do the same thing. We probably did the same thing when our parents tried the same stunts. When we're tempted to do this with our teens, we can remember the words of Jesus here, when he reminds us that God is the one who will call our teens and bring them to Jesus. Can we have the faith to let God be God? Can we surrender the notion that we need to somehow make our teens love God?

If we were spending time with teens without trying to constantly "mold" or "influence" or "direct" or "fix" them, constantly looking for those teachable moments, what would our time together look like? Do we think teens are unaware of ulterior motives to shape them? They know what we're up to, and they don't like it! If we were to surrender these ulterior motives, perhaps we would see walls start to come down. Perhaps we would see relationships deepen. Perhaps teens would begin to learn from our actions what we could never teach them with our words.

When they choose to speak, let's listen to our teens. Look for the subjects that they get excited about, and get excited about it with them. Delight in their energy and passion. Point out the good things they do, not to manipulate them into more good behavior, but simply to praise them for their goodness. Try to notice where teens come alive and follow that thread. If our teens are accustomed to hearing us sell our agenda to them all the time, it will take time for them to notice that something has changed. However, if we continue to practice presence, we will begin to see a positive change.

Friday, May 6

God's Presence

Last post, I wrote about being present with our teens. It's not easy, but it can be more beneficial and less stressful than the other alternative, in which all our time with our teens is spent trying to manage them in some way. This post will explore the idea of making ourselves present to God. Learning to dwell in his presence will prepare us to be present to others, including our teens.

How do you approach God in prayer? Do you come to him with a list of thanks and requests? Do you pray in the shower? In the car? In bed at night? Maybe you get up in the morning and pray, or pray throughout the day. I find that sometimes praying just wears me out. I once determined to pray for a long period of time each day. I wrote out a long list of names and situations that I wanted to bring before God. I got myself in a prayerful mindset and sat in a lonely place and prayed through my list. After a few days, this process became exhausting! Also, to my shame, the prayers quickly grew cold and business-like.

More recently, I've tried to approach prayer less as "talking to God" and more as "time with God." This has been so much more refreshing! I still pray through lists sometimes, but most often I will just sit and be with God. Maybe I can tell him what is on my mind and ask him to intercede in the lives of others, or maybe I can just sit in silence, trusting that it is enough to simply place myself in his midst.

I apologize for all the first person singular pronouns. Let me share what a friend recently told me. He said sometimes when he is driving in the car, he will clear off the passenger seat so that Jesus has a place to sit and ride with him. They don't talk constantly- maybe the radio is even on. Even when he's not "praying" he is consciously spending time in his "presence."

I urge you to take time to consciously enter God's presence. Don't worry about what you need to pray about. Don't scold yourself if your mind wanders. Just give that to God. Don't worry about waxing eloquent or running down a list of needs or thanks. Don't come to him with an agenda, just come to him. Don't believe God will meet you in silence? Remember his last words spoken in Matthew: "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Can you find satisfaction in this non-judgemental, no-pressure place?