by Ruth Mitchell
I cringe when I hear adults speak negatively about teenagers, especially in front of their children. They often talk about adolescence as if it were an inevitable disease, as if on a child’s 13 birthday they lose their individuality and become lazy, degenerate, rebellious zombies. As a young women’s leader and a mother I find this stereotype ridiculous. I adore teens. And I know I’m in good company. God loves teenagers.
Sure, God loves all his children, but He values teens in particular.
Whenever there’s an important work to be done, more often than not, God calls on a teenager.
When He wanted to free the Israelites from the Philistines He sent a shepherd boy.
When it was time for the Messiah to be born, He called upon a thoughtful teenage girl named Mary.
In the middle ages He called upon a peasant girl, Joan of Arc, to lead the armies of France.
When He wanted to restore His church, He chose a 14-year-old farm boy.
And now when it’s time to hasten His work, He’s asking 18 and 19-year-olds to traverse the globe and share His gospel.
God chooses to work with teenagers because they are old enough to be capable and young enough to be teachable. Teens are better at receiving instruction and criticism than most adults. The typical teen has at least 10 bosses: 6-7 teachers, a coach or music instructor and two parents. They spend most of their waking hours being told by someone how they should do something better. Most adults I know bristle at the slightest correction while teens receive it all day. This makes them pros at learning and much more pliable than their adult counterparts.
As our Father, who understands perfectly our divine potential, God knows we are all capable of more than we realize. Likewise, He knows that teens are more capable than most adults give them credit for, and in some areas more capable than most adults. My kids are always helping me with my phone and laptop. Sometimes I marvel at what they know. My oldest daughter always reminds me, “You can do this too, Mom.” She explains that she often doesn’t know the answer to a tech problem. She just knows how to look for the answer and will keep searching till she finds it. She’s developed the ability to “seek and ye shall find.” This skill is relevant far beyond solving tech problems. A wise stake leader once told me, “Never let experience get in the way of inspiration.” God knows that teens, who don’t have the crutch of experience, are more likely to turn to Him for help. Doing this, they solve problems in inspired and innovative ways.
Adolescents, especially girls, are often derided for being overly dramatic and sensitive. And it’s true, as hormones fluctuate teenagers experience dramatic highs and lows. This roller coaster of emotions leaves them sensitive and passionate. While some may complain about drama queens, God values those who feel deeply. Christ said He will spew out those who are lukewarm. “I would that thou were hot or cold.” Teens aren’t lukewarm. The expression “rabid fangirl” and “angry young man” exist for a reason. But God knows better than to mock this enthusiasm. He knows that channeled in the right direction the energy and passion of teens will improve the world.
God’s ways are not man’s ways. And though God loves teenagers the rest of the world does not. Even in this age of hyper-political correctness it is still socially acceptable to deride and dismiss is teens. The other night my 15-year-old daughter and I were discussing how adults often judge teenagers harshly. To my chagrin, I realized that at times I sound judgmental. I admit I am shocked by acceptance of drug use and premarital sex at our high school, not to mention the skimpy clothes and vulgar language. But it’s important not to confuse the sin soaked culture teens inhabit in with the teens themselves. In fact, this toxic environment is a key indicator of the threat Satan perceives in them. He recognizes and fears the potential of faith-filled youth. That’s why he’s assembled the bulk of his assaults on teenagers. Teens stand in the front lines of the war between good and evil. As such, injuries and casualties are to be expected. Parents and leaders shouldn’t condemn those who fall victim to Satan’s attacks, rather they should minister to them with same love and tenderness, they would offer to any wounded soldier.
One reason parents speak of teen years with dread is because they realize they can no longer control their children and they know the battle is real and the stakes are high. But God, who never wanted to control anyone and comprehends completely the power of the atonement is not threatened by teenagers. Rather, He sees them as a powerful force for good. He doesn’t just pat them on the head, telling them they are “a noble generation.” Rather, he puts them to work. He asks them to do hard, critical things. His message in not of fear or doubt. God’s message is empowering. As the angel told a teenage Mary:
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
What amazing, impossible things have you seen teens accomplish?