Monday, February 07, 2011

Hug a Teenager

I'm declaring now until forever "Hug a Teenager" season.  I was thinking over the weekend about my teen years, and I remembered all these times of doubt, awkwardness, heartbreak, confusion, frustration and downright despair.  I had a huge, stinking pile of teenage angst.  I cut my eyelashes short with a straight blade.  I plucked out each and every one of my leg hairs with tweezers over a weekend when I was grounded to my bedroom.  I got into self-mutilation and holding my breath so long I'd fall over.  I had some really messed up ideas for decorating my body that would give you nightmares so I'll spare you.  I constantly thought about suicide.  I thought it was poetic, even beautiful.  I thought it would be able to say all those things that I couldn't vocalize.  I'm grateful for the release being in band offered.  And for a handful of teachers who noticed my struggle and were instrumental in keeping me from going off the deep end.
It's not like I wasn't completely and absolutely loved.  I knew my family had my back.  I knew they'd support me. I knew they'd forgive me and be there for me if I made a huge mistake.  And yet I still went through all of that crap.  If someone from that kind of upbringing can go through so much darkness, how are all the kids who don't have that kind of support supposed to make it?

I'm sure there are some teenagers who simply fly though their season of whacked hormones and bodily changes, who find it fairly natural and exciting to try out their new-found theories on life, who aren't drowning in fear and loathing.  I think for some kids high school is a collection of trophies for jobs well done and wins on the football field and popularity for being hilarious or beautiful or athletic.  They may never find that kind of affirmation after graduation.  In the real world, they may be shocked to find out that they are just a small fish in a big pond, and they dream of going back to the glory days of high school.  There have got to be kids who find it exhilarating to skate around on the ice of uncertainty about life out from under the direction and protection of their parents; those who thrive as they discover who they are and what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  I just didn't know many of those kids.  I certainly wasn't one of them. 

People used to tell me that my high school years were supposed to be the best years of my life.  Really?!  Does that mean it's all downhill from here on out?  I've reached my peak?  Nothing else to look forward to?  That was the worst possible thing anyone could have told me.  Honestly, I couldn't imagine anything worse than high school.  So I dreaded growing up.  I needed to hear that high school can be brutal, but that it will one day be over - that it can get much, much, MUCH better after graduation.                             

I think a lot of teens need to have that hope that things can get better.  That life isn't like high school.  That they will someday grow into their new legs and that they will discover what works for them and what doesn't work.  I think kids need to be told that after high school, they won't be judged as harshly.  They won't be watched as closely.  That if they don't fit into this small little box that it's ok, and they're not freaks.  That they are capable of making smart decisions.  That those decisions aren't always as life-and-death as they think they are.  That most things aren't as big of a deal as they seem in high school. 

I wish I had grown up knowing God.  I knew of God.  But I didn't know Him.  What I did know terrified me.  I hoped it wasn't true.  I didn't want some all-powerful guy watching every move I made, judging it to be right or wrong.  I thought He must have some nerve, some weird power-struggle.  Who the heck was He to tell me what was right or wrong for me?!  If I wasn't fearing Him, I was angry at Him for making people make stupid, oppressive choices for their lives which they then pushed on me.  Most of my family were believers though, so I couldn't just ignore Him.  They didn't really push Him on me.  But they didn't seem put off by Him, so I always kind of hoped that He'd turn out to be more than I'd grown up thinking He was.  I thought that for my family to continue to worship Him, I must have some bad intel or something.  But for a long time, I didn't try to find out what the big deal was.  I tried to figure things out on my own and never felt like I was doing a good enough job.  I was still so driven by fear and confusion and trying to liked by my peers. 

If I had known Him in high school, I would have realized that I am indeed loved.  By more than my relatives.  That He thinks I have potential.  That He smiles when He thinks of me.  That He is gentle and patient with me.  That He only wants me to avoid certain things because they could hurt me.  That He wants me to pursue other certain things because they will help me and others.  {THAT I DON'T HAVE TO BE AFRAID!}  That He is never too busy for me.  That He will always make time for me.  That my secrets are safe with Him.  That He knows my strengths and my weaknesses.  That He knows that life as a human is HARD.  That He knows rejection and heartbreak.  But He IS hope.  He IS the source of joy.  He IS worship.  Life can be downright GOOD with Him. 

So hug a teenager.  They are going through some stuff!  Point them to God because He will NOT fail them.  If He says you are lovable, you can take it to the bank.  You can let that kind of assurance flood your heart and become truth.  Undeniable.  When everything else in life seems soooo up in the air...God is faithful, and He will help you figure out who you were always meant to be.

No comments: