What?! Wednesdays is our guest blog segment where our guest will posit their view on a particular issue in order to open the ‘floor’ for your feedback. Don’t hold back! 🙂
By Alexus Rhone
What’s the difference between the Christian and the unsaved teen on a high school campus? Unfortunately, in some cases, not much. Don’t believe me? Ask the teachers or walk the hallways.
As a former writer-in-residence for several school districts, I taught semester-long writing workshops. The first assignment was always to answer one simple question – Who are you? Rich writing begins with understanding who you are. And who you are is shaped by where you’ve been and what you’ve done. So I challenge them to withdraw ideas and stories from their “experience bank,” guaranteeing each assignment would be ripe with heart and passion. The responses ranged from “I’m the oldest of three children” to “I’m stereotyped because I wear a black leather trench coat in the winter and summer.”
The statements that fascinated me the most, however, dealt with matters of faith. “I’m a Christian” or “I love God with all my heart!” were the affirmations of the faith-ful. But faith is not only about what you believe. It’s also about how you behave. And the behavior of many of our youth blurs the vision between the redeemed and the reckless.
“Brea” was a beautiful 10th-grader and a gifted poet. She was the oldest of seven children and planning to attend college. Brea was also active in her church’s youth group where she served faithfully as president (I tried once to get her to join a community mentoring group that would keep her focused on her goals; but she opted not to because it would interfere with her church choir practices). With good home training and great aspirations, Brea got pregnant three times in under six months by her on-again-off-again boyfriend. Handsome and Hershey-colored“Maurice,” who – while extremely likable – had slept with her friends, toyed with her emotions and couldn’t seem to pass a basic skills test (hardly the kind of person to connect with for life). Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on who you ask) Brea miscarried each time. The third pregnancy was, according to Brea, a planned attempt to have a baby – a secret desire she’d nursed for two years. My heart broke as I considered the magnitude of faith in a God who can save you for heaven, but can’t save you from idiotic plans.
Then there was “Keisha.” She was never without an opinion. With neck-rolls, finger-snaps and lip-pops, she would animate and cleverly articulate her views on everything from birth control to school uniforms. Keisha was a Christian, but you’d never know it by the shirt she wore on the first day of school and the tongue-thrashing she gave the Dean of Students when he checked her on her attire.
“Torrance” had one of the worst reputations on campus among the teachers. He may have been a bright boy, but he didn’t show it. Teachers only experienced his madness. With the absence of a corporal punishment policy (i.e., no paddling or pops), their only resolve was to grin and bear him (or scream and bear him, or pray and bear him). Either way, the administration refused to kick this boy out of school because “he doesn’t mean any harm.” Imagine my shock when he wrote the freedom he could not live without as an American was the freedom to worship. I couldn’t resist the urge to inquire who or what he was worshipping acting like he does. “Jesus,” he answered, followed by a look that said, “Who else?”
What’s going on? Watching them made me wonder if Christ was enough. Seeing through the eyes of faith, I choose to believe that all is not lost. There are three things we can do.
1. Get Active. Form after-school discussion groups. Youth love to talk and share with adults who make time for them. On the outside they look like a barren landscape with no hope of growing anything useful. You’d be amazed how rich that soil is; it just needs tilling.
2. Get Vocal. If you see a need, be part of the solution. Tell the principals and school leaders what you’ve noticed and suggest how you may plug in to meet the need. Build relationships with young people so that when you see them acting out of order, you can check them. It’s your expression of love for them. Your raised voice may be the one that makes the difference.
3. Get Real. Remember what it was like being a teenager? You probably pushed the envelope, too, trying to get away with as much as you could. Make a commitment to excel in grace. Cut ‘em some slack, recognizing faith grows with experience; it’s a process.
I pray Christian teens will be surrounded by seasoned believers who’ll get active, get vocal and get real. I know we can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. I pray God increases their will and desire to always represent Him, and that He increases our desire to be available.
Alexus Rhone is a Master of Divinity Student at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of several Young Adult novels including Pre-mature Pleasures, Secret Shame, Backseats and Bleachers, and Cover the Coo. This “Revolutionary Artist” can be found online at http://www.alexusrhone.com