I put in a one-day stint as a substitute teacher in a local public junior high school. Hey, the teachers were on strike, and sometimes it's just difficult to get good help!
So there I stood, ready to "teach" the 14- and 15-year-olds some English. Boy did they take me to school! Although many kids respected authority, others treated me one notch above "road kill."
I gained a deeper appreciation that day for the job our teachers do in all our schools, and especially those in public education.
But the number one lesson of the day for me came when I asked the students to write down their answers to a series of questions. The first question was, "Who is your hero?" I was stunned by their answers.
I found it mildly fascinating that, out of nearly 100 students, celebrities like Michael Jordan, Madonna, and Michael Jackson only got a vote or two each. Instead, the answers fell into three equal groups.
The first group answered "My mom and dad," or "My mom," or "My grandparents."
Many others stated, "Nobody." One boy proclaimed profoundly and proudly, "I don't have any heroes! Only girls and sissies have heroes!"
But I was totally unprepared for the answer of the last group of teens. When asked who their hero was, they answered: "Myself!"
Now I want you to think back on your early adolescent days—how prepared were you to be your own hero? I didn't know it, but I was lost as a teenager—a confused mass of hormones, emotions, and energy. And today's teenagers may claim to have high self-esteems, but in reality they are just as lost and confused.
The only stabilizing force in my life was my family. Mom always knew where I was and Dad's character was always rock solid. My home was a refuge in the storm.
But as I looked at some of these young people, I could see in their faces the hopelessness of a generation that feels betrayed. In their minds they've been let down by all the "models." They've watched adults carefully and found them to be unworthy of their respect.
I couldn't help but think how unfair it is that these young people had somehow lost their childhood innocence to the harshness of adult life. They had been deeply disappointed. Had it been a dad who deserted the family? A mom's affair? A divorce? Abuse?
One thing became crystal clear to me that day: Our kids need us.
You must not underestimate the power you have as a parent. Your teenager will try to push you out of his life and say, "You just don't understand!" But don't believe it! Your children need you more than they know. They live in a culture that is spewing immoral sewage all over them every day. They desperately need you to point them to God, model the Scriptures, and show them how to walk with Christ.
Some time back Barbara had a problem with one of our children that has occurred over and over again. She felt hopeless, overwhelmed by the circumstances.
I put my arm around her and told her that it was okay to feel hopeless. But I also exhorted her that it's not okay to stay in that state of despair. With God, nothing is impossible. I said, "This child already feels hopeless enough. Our love will be the stabilizing power that I hope God will use to pull this child through these turbulent times."
Galatians 6:9 tells us, "And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary." May God grant each of us the courage to finish strong. The next generation is worth it. And our God demands it!
Copyright 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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