In the first post on age, we dealt with the fact that young and old alike struggle with issues of age. We talked about a sort of age related dementia that goes along with youth, adulthood, and old age, and we gave you some things to remember and do that will help with these dilemmas of age. (If you missed that post, click here and catch up before you read further.)
In 1 Samuel chapter 7, we compared the nation of Israel to little children who get distracted and wander away from their parents. But sometimes, God’s children are more like willful teenagers, opposing what God wants and willfully choosing a different direction.
This is what you see in 1 Samuel chapter 8. Israel decides that they want to be like everyone around them, rather than look like their parent (God.) They want God there when they need help, but they still want to do their own thing. And even after they are warned about the difficulties and dangers their choices will produce, they still want what they want. And they are willing to enter back into a slavery of sorts to get what they want.
The truth is, we are more like the Children of Israel than we want to admit. How often we disregard what God wants in favor of what we want. How often we turn our back on His provision and find ourselves in slavery to what we thought we wanted/needed.
And like a good parent, God will hang back and watch us make poor choices. He will allow us to willfully turn away from Him, while all, the time waiting for us to realize the slavery and mess we’ve chosen. Then, when we cry out to Him, He will step in to help us walk out of our mess.
God wants children who will stay close and dependent to Him, not teenagers who will willfully break away from Him. The question is…which are you?
Parent is a difficult job, no matter the age of your children. But it is especially difficult to parent teens. Teens strongly demonstrate and exercise their self-will. They are also very good at diverting blame and misrepresenting loving discipline as punitive retribution.
1 Samuel chapters 5-6 portray the Israelites much like teenagers. In chapter 4, the Israelites independently do what they want to do, without consulting God. Because of this (and previous offenses,) they bring about a disconnect in the relationship…symbolized by their separation from the Ark of the Covenant.
As a good parent, God works behind the scenes (unbeknownst to them) to reconnect the relationship and return the Ark. Like teenagers, the Israelites are happy to receive the blessing of the Ark’s return, but they continue to do what they want to do. They continue to treat God with casual disrespect. And when God disciplines them for this attitude, the Israelites respond as if God is to blame (1 Sam. 7:2)
Too often, I respond to my Heavenly father as if I’m a teenager. I want what I want, when I want it. I’m glad to receive His benefits, but hurt when He disciplines me. And I’m usually more concerned with Him not leaving me, then with me not leaving Him.
I tend not to recognize:
- All He did behind the scenes to restore our relationship.
- The fact that He, more often than not, is the one who makes the first move to restore the relationship.
Yes, 1 Samuel chapters 5-6 make theological statements about the omnipresence of God in a pagan culture. And yes, you see teachings about God’s sovereignty and holiness. But mostly you see a God who goes out of His way to move towards His children…even when they have rebelled and disconnected from Him.
Be grateful God has a heart for teenagers…like us!
“I know you better than you know yourself.” My teens would bristle every time I said this to them. Yet, with a few exceptions, it was usually true. I had observed them from the first minute of their life. I knew their temperament, their personality, their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their likes and dislikes…I knew them. Even during their teen years, when they were changing so rapidly and intensely, the basic thumb print of who they were continued to shine through.
But even though I knew so much about them…even though I knew both their strengths and weaknesses…even though I knew when they made mistakes, or lied, or rebelled…
When children become pre-teens and teens, they think more abstractly and become more self-focused. When this happens, they want to know “why” before they carry out instructions. If they’re not told “why,” or if it makes no sense to them, they often resist the request or directive.
At times, parents need to take more time to explain the reasoning behind their directives. But, because of their age and experience, parents know and foresee things their children are unable to. So there are times when a child needs to trust their parent’s wisdom, intentions, and love…even though the child doesn’t have the information they desire.
In this post, let’s talk about how parents can bring out the best in their teens. It starts when you’re aware of your own issues of control, self-esteem, memory loss, fears, and aspirations. (Check out the previous post for more on this.)
Once you have addressed those things in yourself, there are some things you can do to bring out the best in those opinionated, strong-willed, hormonally challenged aliens we refer to as teenagers:
I typically write posts focused on marriage, but this post is going to veer more into the area of parenting. Specifically, parenting teenagers, and more specifically, how teenagers bring out the worst in their parents.
As a former youth pastor, I have a special place in my heart for parents of teens. And, as the father of two grown children, I still have the twitches that can only come from teens or Turretts.