I used to be scared of teenagers—even when I was one. And in full disclosure I still can get intimidated by them. Whereas preschoolers and elementary kids can be easily impressed with you simply because you are older and therefore, in their minds, an expert on things, teenagers are not. A teenager’s motto seems to be: I will not be impressed by you unless you earn it. And earning it is hard work. Earning it leaves you vulnerable to blowing it. Earning it forces you out of your comfort zone and into uncharted waters.
Yep, preschoolers and elementary (even early middle schoolers)—those are my people. But teenagers…not so much.
Until I had one.
Now that a teenager is one of my people, I am having to figure things out. I am having to interact with a whole new species! But you know what??? I kinda like him 😉
Actually, I really like him. (Which according to my teenager is even more important than loving him. After all, I have to love him, but I don’t have to like him. I guess he does have a point.)
But part of this whole parenting a teenager thing is that we are both figuring it out as we go. Never having parented a teenager before, makes my son a bit of a child-rearing guinea pig. And most days my husband and I are clueless.
Is he social enough? Is his screen to real life ratio within a healthy range? Is it ok that he really doesn’t like sports that much? Why does he take two 20 minute showers a day? Is it normal for a 13-year-old to occasionally act like a 2-year-old? Will his feet ever stop growing???
But I gleaned some extraordinary insight last night that I just have to share:
My teenager doesn’t know what he’s doing. We don’t know what we’re doing. But God does know what He’s doing, and that’s all we need to cling to.
In fact, it almost seemed to relieve my son last night to hear me say that I don’t have this whole parenting thing figure out. Like knowing that we are figuring this out together makes us the same in some way.
We had one of those talks as he was getting settled into bed last night. Not one of those talks, but a pour your heart out, listen more than you talk, kind of talks. It always takes awhile to get there. These kind of talks can never be rushed. Thees talks require a level of patience that I often do not possess after 9:00pm. But last night, led by the Holy Spirit, I lingered. We laughed. We chatted. And then came the statement. The one that made my heart sink:
“I’ll never do anything great for God.”
Oh my heart. My heart wanted to scream out, “Yes you will!” My mind wanted to recount all the joy he brings to our family. Write a list of his positive attributes in sharpie on the wall so he would read it everyday. My mind began scrolling thru my mental rolodex of books on positive self-talk.
But the Spirt said, “Listen.”
My son explained that because he isn’t comfortable being in front of people, and sometimes struggles to even want to interact with others, that he most likely won’t do anything big for God.
“Do you know what I mean?” he asked, vulnerability written all over his face.
Oh my son I do know. Oh how I know.
He articulated what I struggled with as a teenager and what I still struggle with today.
Does what I’m doing matter? (When you hear numbers like 20,000 likes and 100K views and 50,000 followers it kinda messes with your head and leaves you and your tiny little numbers feeling significantly less than)
What do people really think of me? (Do I even want to know?)
Why is it so hard to talk to someone new?
Can God really use an introverted, people-pleasing, non-athletic person, who turns red when speaking in front of others????
But since this wasn’t about me, I asked God to speak through me and to me as I spoke to my son:
“Buddy, do you know why your name is Andrew?” I asked.
“Because of the disciple guy?” he said unsure of where this was going.
“Yes, because of the disciple guy. Andrew didn’t need to be the guy up front. Andrew didn’t need to have the attention on him. Andrew simply followed Jesus and then ran to get his brother, Peter, so he could follow Jesus too. Andrew was content to walk with Jesus in quiet obedience and trust. And Andrew was the only disciple to go and find some bread and fish for Jesus to use to feed over 5,000 people. Andrew didn’t understand it all, but he trusted that Jesus did. And God used simple trust in extraordinary ways.”
That’s my prayer for you, bud. That you will find your contentment, joy, love and peace in Jesus and walk in quiet obedience to him. You don’t have to worry about the results of your obedience. Just trust Him and obey.”
My son processed this, and debated a few of my points (as only a teenager can). But he seemed to get what I was trying to convey.
Then as only God can do, He turned my words around to me:
My daughter, are you content with me? Am I enough for you? Are you more concerned with numbers or with obedience to me? If I call you to walk in quiet obedience to me, will that be enough for you? Will you walk with m?. Write for me? Speak for me? And then let me handle the results? You can do great things in my kingdom by simply following me. For I am the GREAT I AM.
We may never hold a crusade for 100,000 people. Our names may never be illuminated above a stage. We may never have more than 10 likes on a post. But God can still use us (as unqualified as we may seem) to do great things for Him. All He requires is our saying, “Yes Lord, here I am. Use me in whatever way You see fit.”
After all true greatness is not measured by numbers. True greatness is measured by love and quiet obedience to a Great God.
I still don’t know what I’m doing with this whole parenting a teenager thing, but I’m so thankful God does! And that He is willing to use imperfect, clueless people to further His kingdom.