So, my husband works with teenagers, as many (if not most) of you know. It is a fun, challenging, heartbreaking, amusing, curious kind of work. Just a few nights ago he was speaking to a group of leaders at another church, and centered the entire talk around why he is a magnet for awkward people (that sounds so much worse than it actually was).
His reasons were three fold:
- He is a leader
- He is nice and
- He works with middle schoolers.
And it’s true. He’s a loud and upfront leader, but he’s also the nicest (in the truest sense of the word) man you’ll ever meet. The combination breeds a curious little following.
But it’s OK, because we know teeangedome is awkward overall, and among other things, he wants to be there for the most awkward of the bunch, the ones on the outskirts.
[On a side note, my children lead strange lives. See exhibit A below:]
But in all seriousness, we for real care about teenagers. Adrian breathes it, day in and day out. I’m not on the front lines like I have been in the past, but my heart for young people never changed.
I’m not sure if any teenagers read this blog, but I felt compelled to write to you. Even if it’s all one of you.
So, if you are a teenager, or a pre-teen, this here little letter is for YOU.
Why hello. I’m writing to you because I sincerely hope, with all my heart, that while I’m no longer the youth-pastor’s-wife leading small groups every week and pulling all nighters with the best of them, that you know I am for you.
I am for you because I believe that your life has value and purpose right now, right as you are.
YOU, sweet one, are gifted, and talented, and unique, and creative, and valuable, and smart, and treasured.
YOU are today’s church. Today’s leaders. Today’s world changers.
This broken, beat-up world needs your life, your voice, your passion, and your heart.
I so desperately long for you to see all that in yourself and believe it. For you to know this great gift that you’ve been given and for you to know, really know, the Giver Himself.
It’s hard. I get it. I get that being a teenager is crazy challenging, and dramatic, and often hormonally imbalanced. I get that nothing seems fair and that everything is a little bit more tender and that the world and your parents and even your friends sometimes don’t really get you like you want to be got. I know.
And I know you think I’m ancient, but truly, I’m not so much older than you. I’m not that far removed from it all. It wasn’t that long ago that I walked in those shaky teenage shoes.
So I want you to know, teenager, that I see you.
I see your aches and challenges and heaviness. I know that some of you are carrying the heaviest of burdens: broken families, messed up relationships, abusive pictures of love, overwhelming insecurities, body image disorders, addictions, busted-up examples of parents.
Ugh. It sucks. IT DOES.
YET, I know this too. I know God sees you. I know He loves you. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve waded through, you are not too far gone to receive His love.
I was 16 myself, suffocating in the rubble of a crumbled up life, when I realized that He saw me. He saw me and sought after me and pursued me relentless. He rescued me from the pit.
And more than anything else, if I could instill one thing in you, it would be this: He loves you and your life with Him will be better, sweeter, more satisfying than anything this world could ever give you.
I know you may not want to listen to what older people are saying. I know you might want to “experience life” yourself and try things out and “live a little” before being tied down by rules or restriction or morality or faith.
But sweet friend… you do not know how many days you have. You are not guaranteed tomorrow. And really, really, it’s not about the rules. It’s about the love.
If you have any room in your heart to hear words from an old lady, hear me:
You don’t have to experience all that stuff to know what life’s really about.
ALL THE STUFF is lies. Harsh, I know. But it is.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:17
Not everyone tries all the things.
Not everyone is having sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend or friend-with-benefits.
Not everyone is partying.
Not everyone that matters is getting straight As or going to an Ivy League school or dressing in brand name clothes.
Not everyone is a size 2 (0r 8 or 12.)
Not everyone is drinking.
Not everyone is talking about friends behind their backs.
Not everyone is watching that show or getting an abortion or sending provocative pictures via text or snap chat or instagram. Not everyone is lying to their parents. Not everyone is experimenting with [fill in the blank]. Not everyone.
NO. NOT everyone is doing it.
Here’s the thing about it all. Jesus says, if you want to find your life, you must lose it. You must let go of all the things that you want to experience because they’re fun, or cool, or exciting, or pain-relieving right now. I promise you, they will not be fun forever. I promise you, they will not sustain you. They will not fulfill you. They will not help you find yourself. They will not gain you worthy friends. They will not make you happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.
They. Will. Not.
You cannot have it both ways. You can’t be hot and cold. You can’t praise God with your mouth then curse your friends with the same mouth. You can’t live with one foot in the church and one foot in the world. I mean, you CAN do those things. You can live a double life play church for the church folk and cool kid for the cool kids, but you can’t do that AND really live.
His way isn’t about rule following or having to sit all the fun stuff out. His way is higher, better, brighter, full of wonder and adventure and more hope than anything else you’re chasing.
His way will lead you to understanding who you are, because only He can tell you.
So, I’m gonna say this again.
YOU are valuable and loved and treasured and made with care and made for a purpose.
My prayer for you, teenager, is that you would start walking in that purpose TODAY. Do not wait. Do not hesitate. Do not look back.
Run to the arms of a loving Savior who desires your whole heart, your whole life, not your life when you settle down in ten or fifteen years. Leave the junk behind. Let Him heal every wound and bind up your broken heart. Let Him lead you on the greatest, sweetest, most wild adventure of your life, one that will not bore you or tie you down or leave you yawning.
Let Him start today.
YOU are worth it.