College journey vs Faith Journey
A second observation I have found in this decade of parenting is the buzz of anticipation that college life is looming on the horizon! Many are talking and preparing their kids for just the right college of their choice. Teens are settling into their strengths that have been perfected at this point, middle and high schools are settled in the minds of the parents by now, and from what I’ve found, many are focused on the perfect grooming of the kid for them to make it into the best college possible with an academic or sports scholarship! Who doesn’t push for the best and most money we can obtain for our rising adults?
Where are you going to go?
Will you go to a private institution or a community college?
What do you want to do when you get older?
What activities are you doing right now that will help you get in to the college of your choice?
Will you go out of state somewhere?
The questions are endless and the planning starts now, in this decade.
“Oh no, not again. I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know where I want to go, I don’t want to think about adding another activity on my plate that I don’t even like, I can’t talk about it because it stirs up some fear in me of the unknown of my future….”
But the drive and pressure is just so strong. The college box is just such this perfect little square of what is supposed to happen next and there’s no time to stop and think and have no fear because this is what life says is next. “No thinking differently, no thinking out of the lines of this box, let’s go, let’s go…..we’ve got lots of planning to do! THIS will be success! These are exciting times, you are headed for adulthood and college and a career and a future!”
I have observed the actions of many, have heard and listened to lots of conversations from adults on this subject, and one day it hit me. I have been stumped at how much work the parent is doing on behalf of their teen, along with the pressure that is being heaped onto these young kids’ shoulders (there is a difference between coaching/encouraging/teaching your teens at this level but what I am talking about is something different). I have found the majority believe there is no other way. The box has four walls and you don’t deviate from it if you are to make it in life. And in this decade of having teens, this becomes a driving force that elevates to the top of the list.
I have sat and contemplated this a lot over the last few weeks.
“Are we making the college journey the most important aspect of the teen years? If we are called to teach and mold our children, if they are the “clay” as the Bible tells us, shouldn’t we be teaching them to place their trust and faith in this God they’ve been learning about for so long? Is there no better way to help our children see God visually than at this stage of the game, in their teen years?”
My thoughts keep coming back to one thing: Faith. Where does this come into play within our teenager’s life?
Why are we not talking to our teens about their faith journey when all the focus tends to be on the college journey at this stage? Why in the world are we not preparing their hearts to have their OWN faith and not hanging onto the coattails of their parent’s faith? If we are diligent in teaching and showing them how God exists in all aspects of their own life, not in the life of their parents, not in their life as within the family unit, but within their own decisions they make for themselves, wouldn’t that exact faith lead them towards the perfect decision for their future, such as, after high school?!
Are we teaching our teens to:
- have their own faith journey or to have their parents and/or grandparents faith?
- put their faith in the “box”, the way we are told it’s supposed to look after high school?
- put faith in us, as their parents, to do the work for them?
- live inside this “one way of life” in order to be successful and well thought of by the public?
We tell ourselves that we are letting our kids guide themselves as they pick different colleges to look at, explore, and envision but have we actually given them any other choice?!
What about the teen who wants to:
- Do a trade?
- Join a program or ministry, like YWAM, that involves training and traveling abroad for missions?
- Get married and start a family?
- Join the military?
What if the journey of our children were to look a little different than how the world says it’s supposed to look? And if they choose a different path, are we ok with how this will make us look, as their parents?
These teens are craving a faith that they can claim as theirs, they are craving to belong, they are craving to be filled with something and they are trying to get it from what this world has to offer. And what does it have to offer? Let down, failure, emptiness, brokenness.
Just look at some of these verses in God’s Word that our teens can read, memorize, and claim!
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye”
2 Corinthians 5:7
“For we walk by faith, not by sight”
“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight”
“you will show me the path of life…”
“Your ears will hear a word behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it”, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”
“Call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
“It is better to trust in the Lord that to put confidence in man.”
I Samuel 14:6
“it may be that the Lord will work for us.”
How do we teach our teens to have their own faith journey?
- We address issues of the heart: get to the heart level as to what choices they are making. Unpeel those layers and you will find a need that isn’t being met. Ground them? Take away their phones? Yell at them and take away their friends? Go ahead but if you aren’t dealing with the issues of the heart, none of it will work.
- We explain the moral reason why: The Bible is the final authority. Open up God’s word with them and explain what He says about the issue. Explain why we choose to be different than the world. For some reason, it’s really, really hard to argue with the Bible (insert sarcasm and a mischievous grin)!
- We teach them that this is their own journey, not their mom or dad’s. We’ve already been through our teen years and this is their life. The decisions they make when mom and dad are not around is exactly that, their choice (and when they choose wrong, we go back and unpeel the issues of the heart)! They have to choose what they want for themselves. Have them read Bible stories that show examples of obedience versus disobedience and let them write you a paper on what they read. Have them do this before they mess up, not as a punishment, but simply just as a means to help them gain knowledge and wisdom!
- We point out to them when God shows up in their life. We step back and let them slowly start taking accountability for their actions and choices but then we don’t drop the ball. We look deeper than the surface layers of what they are doing (for the day or on that particular weekend) to find out if they are capable of handling a little more freedom.
**There’s no other place I would rather our teens dig through issues of their own heart or choose actions that may or may not be right than under the umbrella of their own home, with us, their parents, who have been given the responsibility to guide and teach them with unconditional love.
We can teach them all of these things, but there’s one catch. And it’s one that you may not like to hear and it may even cause you to squirm in your seat. You ready?
They are watching our every move and we are their example. If we aren’t living a life that’s showing anything different, why would we expect them to choose anything different? What’s our home life look like? What actions and words and examples are we giving them? I like that little saying, “you are a product of your environment”….what does your environment look like? And to put it even more plainly, “what does your faith journey look like?”
Our teens need us, more so than at any other stage of the game. They need a father’s love and a mother’s care. They need their OWN faith that will allow them to walk into their future boldly and confidently. They need to know God and what it is He can do for them. I pray that we can accept with confidence the plan that God has for our children, whatever their journey! May we, as a society, stop looking at success as one way, one box, one path.
May our teen’s faith become real and become theirs. Because once it does, they can look to the Author and Finisher of their faith and trust that He has already ordered their steps for the future. The college journey and all it’s focus can be guided in a way that comes second to their faith and knowledge in a God who loves them more than anyone or anything else this world has to offer them.