February 17, 2014
You know… sometimes being an adult really stinks. When I was a kid I thought being an adult must be the greatest thing. I mean adults have cars, they are in charge, they don’t make food for dinner that they don’t like, they have money, they tell kids what to do… and the list goes on and on. Little did I know… little did I know.
Seriously, how hard was it being a 12 year old? As I recall, all I concerned myself with was when I was going to play with my friends, if my home work was done for the next day and, I was just starting to wonder if any girls liked me. I rarely had my homework done and I’m pretty sure no girls liked me sooooo… “play” was pretty high on my list.
Adulthood on the other hand… well with health related issues, people I care about getting sick and dying, work related stresses, concerns over children, and for some, grandchildren, stupid cars, finances, college tuitions, house repair “things”…. Well, you know how the list goes. You can add your own “adult joys.” There are days when being 12 looks pretty good. I have such great memories of sleeping in on Saturday mornings. Then getting up and watching cartoons and Tarzan movies (and yes, Shirley Temple). And sometime after noon I would go find my partners in crime and we would spend the day in wonderful friendship arguing over whether we “shot” one another or not, i.e., “I got you.” “No you didn’t. I got you first.” “No you didn’t.” Or playing baseball with 3 boys and an infinite number of “invisible men.” Funny… I couldn’t add 2+2, but I could keep track of how many runners, that I couldn’t even see, were on base.
Anyway, the whole returning to 12 thing sounds really good. Well at least until I heard my son Ben say something the other day. If you ask young people in Middle School and High School what their biggest issues are, know what most will say? Before I answer that, this is one of those examples that reminds me how out of touch I am with kids. Their biggest “issue” is… ready… wait for it… STRESS! WHAT?!?!? I KNOW! How much stress could there be sitting in front of a video game for hours on end? Or texting friends all hours of the day and night? Or spending money that those of my generation and older could only dream of. Seriously, STRESS over what?
Well, let me just give you only one example. There are many others. A few years ago I was talking to the football coach at Elizabeth Forward (the school district that I live in). He told me that over 60% of his boys came from broken homes. Homes where they were being raised by a single mother, single father, grandparent or grandparents, foster parents, guardians, some other relative, or even a friend of the family, but not a mother and father together. And don’t be deceived, the 40% who have a mom and dad in the home together…who’s to say what kind of home that is? It could be a drunk or drug-fest every night. There could be abuse that we don’t even want to think of or speak of. There could be mothers and fathers who simply put up with one another but love is long gone. The point is… our kids come from really, really messy situations. Painful situations. Dysfunctional situations. They come from homes and relationships that they are simply not equipped to deal with. Is it any wonder that there is a little STRESS in their lives?!?!?!
What is THE number one thing that kids want? They may not be able to articulate it, but the most important thing in their lives is having a father and mother who love one another. For some that is nowhere close to any reality or possibility. Anything short of that will likely cause untold stress in their lives. Notice I didn’t say a father and mother who are living together… I said “who love one another.” My folks got divorced when I was 6 going on 7. I have thought many times over the years what it would have been like to live in a home with parents who loved one another. I suspect for myself and my sister’s life would have been very different.
The next time you see an annoying teenager (and you don’t have to look far), remember there are likely things forced upon them in their lives that would cause you to shudder if you knew about them.
You know, the scripture doesn’t give as many clear instructions to families as we might like. I suspect part of that is because there were certain assumptions made in the cultures of the Old Testament and New Testament. But there were some things that were pretty clear that would be life altering if we practiced them with “reckless abandon.”
First, the command to love (sacrificially).
1 John 3:10-12 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. 11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
1 John 4:7 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:10-12 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Second, husbands and wives are called to sacrifice for one another:
Ephesians 5: 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Third… one that I find convicting… an instruction for fathers to treat their kids right and to be a part of their spiritual upbringing.
Ephesians 6: 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.
New Living Translation “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”
Please understand these things are not mentioned to produce guilt or make you feel awful about yourself. Goodness there is enough of that going around already. But I do mention them to indicate that God has given us a system and tragically it’s not like falling off of a log. It takes gut wrenching effort and sacrifice of self and even then it doesn’t work at times. At the end of it all… we have families and kids who are in real trouble. As I mentioned above… think of that the next time a 13 year old annoys you.