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.