I still recall the look on my mentor’s face when I first started in ministry. She would get this quiet smile as I would tell her that I already knew everything and I didn’t have much to learn. My opinion was truth, and there wasn’t anyone who could tell me anything differently.Years later, I understand that look she used to have. It wasn’t bitterness or even resolve. She understood there comes a point when you realize actually how little you know.
I am thankful for mentors who let me think I knew it all so that I could learn I am actually desperate for help. I do wish, however, that I had been shown how to navigate the pitfalls a little better. There are lessons learned along the way that I wish I had learned long ago. As I walk alongside the next generation, I see there are heartaches they could miss. If they could just “get” these five things, I truly believe they would take this world for Christ in ways that would boggle our minds:
1. Only Christ has what you need.
I know it sounds elementary.Yet, I don’t think we teach our youth HOW to have their identity in Him. Why? We don’t really believe that he has everything. I heard Francis Chan say recently that we will look to Jesus as a Savior, but will we see Him as our role model for living?
When we are unhappy or the world is unfair, we try to find our identity in our work, our looks, our status and even our ministry. We must learn early that we must look at ourselves through the eyes of our Savior and never lose our desperation for Him. The moment we think we can gain control, we have actually lost everything.
2. Take the hurdles head on.
I had a mentor tell me once, “You can choose to run around the hurdles in your life. We all want to do it. The problem is that there will always be another one. At some point, you need to learn how to jump them.” We can run away from our challenges; the one catch is that there will be another one.That verse in James says to consider it pure joy WHEN we face trials of MANY kinds. The sooner we can learn hurdles aren’t so scary, the more we can live a full life for the Lord. It may not feel like it in the moment, but with His hand we can get over them.
3. The journey matters.
When you are 10, you want to be 13. At 13 you just want to be 16. Then 18.Then 21.Then married.Then have children. Our focus can always be on that “next thing” there is to attain. We should have goals, that is important. However, the most important lessons learned are in the journey. (It may sound like a Hallmark card, but it’s true.) Where you are right at this moment is part of the shaping process that makes you look more like Jesus. We need to help students ask the Lord, “What do you want me to learn in the adventure we are on together today?”
4. Scars are just tattoos with better stories.
We get wounded in life, and sometimes it is beyond our control. Other times, people hurt us. There are moments when those that should have loved stab deep.There are even moments when our decisions are indeed irreversible. The result is always a gaping and oozing sore. What we need to ask is, “Do we want to be healed?” Our attention can be solely on the unfairness of the lesion. Forgiveness is not giving the offense absolution. Instead, it is the understanding that no one can be effective if they are trying to ignore a bullet hole in the leg. Forgiveness recognizes that bitterness causes separation in our relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness is an act of choice that is followed by feeling. Our wounds do leave scars. But, when we let the Lord heal them, then we can learn to embrace them. We are no longer the walking wounded but those who are not afraid of the tale of our scars.
5. Don’t lose your zeal.
We have a tendency to feed this mentality that all teens rebel. You know when they “grow up,” then they will live fully for Christ. The other side of this is that we can teach our youth that at some point they should be less excited and passionate about Christ. Today is the day called for Salvation. Today is the day that the Lord wants you to be fully his to be used fully by him. Does rebellion happen? Yes, we have free will. Should we expect it? No. Let’s teach this generation they don’t have to be complacent. They can be a light that the world is drawn to, no matter the age.
If I could some it all up, I would say this to my youth, “Live without regret.” If we can look back with as few cringing moments as possible it will all be worth it. I think most of all I just want this generation to understand that they are more powerful than they know. Now I stand with that same smile of knowing while I remind them that they have the full potential to put my faith to shame.