Judy kept looking at the clock, wondering how closer Jeremy was going to cut it to curfew. For 16-year-old Jeremy, curfew was midnight on a Saturday, though moving it to the a.m. hours had been a long, hard-fought battle. The only way she’d given in to a time she continued to consider too late was because Jeremy had promised he would still be up and ready for church on Sunday. The closer he cut it to midnight, though, the harder it was for him to get up in the morning. Even when he did get up, he wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around, especially when she was trying to prepare herself spiritually to worship. Less-than-loving thoughts tended to invade her mind when she had to deal with a grumpy, grouchy, resistant teenager.
Regardless of how difficult it was, Judy determined they were all going to go to church as a family. It was what she did growing up, and it was what she wanted for her family. Church was important. Jeremy might not appreciate it now, but Judy was sure he would later. She didn’t know how she’d have survived young adulthood without God in her life. That’s when all of it had become real to her – when God had intervened and rescued her, more times than she could keep count. Judy believed, and she wanted Jeremy to believe, as well.
Sometimes, she questioned herself. Should she continue forcing him to go to church, or did that imply that having him go through the motions was good enough? Should she allow him to decide for himself and let his faith and desire to come be authentic? It was 11:52 at night, Bob was already asleep, and she found herself going over the argument again. No, she wasn’t going to let him decide because she was afraid of how often he’d decide not to go. Bob had already weighed in with his opinion on the subject – his house, his food, his rules; everyone goes to church.
More than anything, Judy wanted to see signs that Jeremy was coming closer to a decision for God himself. She didn’t want to pressure him into anything more than Sunday-morning church attendance, afraid she’d drive him away. Afraid if she did; afraid if she didn’t. Without answers, Judy did what she normally did; she prayed. She prayed and watched the clock turn over to 11:59.
Among the many other changes in your teenager’s life, they are coming into their own spiritually. For Christian parents, this spiritual emergence is an added source of joy and anxiety. It’s an added layer of anticipation and expectation. Everything else has here-and-now consequences, but spirituality, faith, and belief have hereafter consequences. Christian parents worry not only about how their kids are going to do in this world, but also about how they’re going to fare in the next. Complicating this, of course, is that teens can be even more tight-lipped about how they’re feeling spiritually than how they’re feeling sexually.
Some parents decide it’s just to hard to have The Sex Talk with their kids, so they leave it up to teachers and the middle-school health curriculum. Some parents find it just too hard to have The God Talk with their kids, so they leave it up to ministers and youth pastors. Your kids need to know and hear about sex from you, and they need to know and hear about God from you.
In some ways, faith can be even more personal than sex. Sex can be approached from a physical point of view – what, where, how – body parts, dos and don’ts. If you do X, then Y happens. It’s quantifiable, concrete, explainable in its physical formats.
Faith is something altogether different. It is not physical; it is spiritual. It is concrete, but its foundations lie in a different realm. The Message puts it this way in Hebrews 11:1: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”
As a Christian parent, you’re trying to pass off a handle to your teenager that you know is there, that you desperately want your teen to know is there, that you desperately want your teen to know is there, and that neither of you can see. This faith baton is tricky. But, like every baton pass-off, it works better if you’re actually running the race, you’ve got a firm grasp on what you want to pass on, you pace yourself to the person you’re passing off to, and you get out of the way after it’s passed.
The above is excerpted from Chapter 9 of my new book, The Stranger in Your House.