Being a teenager is such a hard thing to be. My husband is a high school teacher, and he sometimes shares with me the latest "teen drama" happening in his classroom. We'll often laugh, but not in disbelief. More like, "Oh yeah, I remember when I was that hormone-driven, angsty person, too.” The brains, emotions and bodies of teenagers are rapidly changing, leaving teens in an awkward place of feeling grown up in some ways but not at all in others. Reflecting on my own teen years, it’s hard not to shake my head at the incredible mistakes I made as I waded through the process of growing up.
How I wish I had had more older women in my life, speaking the kind of truth that Lindsee over at Living Proof Ministries shared with a 13-year-old daughter of a friend. She calls it Ten Truths for Teenage Girls—but I can’t help reading her list and knowing I need reminded of these things even now, well past my teen years. Here are just a few of Lindsee’s truths:
1. God is the author of your story, not you.
That is so much easier said than lived out, but it is the Gospel truth. He has a plan and a purpose for you that is greater than you could dream up or imagine. If you think your dreams are big, imagine how big His dreams must be for you!
2. You are beautiful.
I want you to hear that with fresh ears. God made you unique. He made you, you. And He made you in His image. Since you bear His image, I am praying that as people see you, they would see His face shining upon you. Beauty really is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
3) Know the Word.
And know what it says about you. If I’ve learned one thing, I’ve learned that if I can’t always believe what I think about myself, and I can’t always believe what people are saying about me or what the internet says about me, I can believe what the Lord says about me. I can rest in the truth of His word and the promises He gives.
4) Life Consists of Seasons.
Just like the four seasons come and go, so will different seasons of life come and go. Don’t despair! “This too shall pass.” is true in both sweet and bitter seasons of life. While you don’t need to wish any of it away, remember to savor the sweet seasons, take the joy when it comes and stay faithful during the bitter seasons. Worship in the good times and bad. Jesus will be faithful over and over and over again. It’s in the valleys that God develops your character.
5) Be Humble.
At church my pastor always tells us to “go low”. Going low means being humble, staying humble, becoming a servant instead of searching for the spotlight. Serve, serve, serve. Invest, invest, invest in people. Never get too comfortable in your routine that you can’t go out of your way to help somebody else. Work quietly with your hands and your Father in Heaven will reward your faithfulness. Be faithful in the small things. You’ll never be too good to do something “meaningless”.
6) Be bold.
In a world of social networking, we can hide behind our computer, our phones, or our iPads. Be bold. Learn how to communicate face to face. It’s a life skill that’s becoming extinct, especially to our teenagers. Refrain from posting things online that you wouldn’t say to someone in person. Passive-aggressiveness (posting something for all to see when you only mean it for one to see) is not attractive.
7) True Love Waits.
I don’t mean that in the way you hear it in church all the time. Staying pure until marriage is a gift, by all means, yes, pursue purity. It’s much harder than you think in the sex-saturated world we live in, but whether you believe it or not, it’s possible. What I mean is, wait for a man that will pursue you, not confuse you. (And be careful not to be the one doing the confusing, either. We girls certainly know how to manipulate.) Wait for a man that will protect your purity, not use it. You are responsible for how you present yourself; so present yourself in a way that’s worth protecting. Sex doesn’t equal love, so wait for a man that loves and respects you enough to practice restraint towards you instead of giving into temptation before marriage. Building a relationship and romance takes time, something we’ve lost the art of in a world with technology at our fingertips, so don’t feel pressure to rush things. Remember, before you are someone’s wife, you are first their Sister in Christ, so don’t settle for less than being treated like a Sister. Your future husband will admire and value you. But also remember, there is forgiveness in Christ. You are not your past; your future spouse is not his past. The Lord redeems and renews. Praise God! But be patient in the waiting. (That’s coming from a girl whose story is still being written. It’s not easy at all. Not one ounce is easy. But Jesus is good and He is better.)
8) Pursue Your Calling.
You may not know what the Lord is calling you to do today, and that’s okay. But pursuing your calling is a bold and courageous thing. Run after the things that make your heart swell. Ask questions, ask for wisdom. Be friends with those younger than you, older than you and in the same season as you. Do things you love to do. Make a plan, but keep in mind that you can make all the plans in the world, but the Lord is the one who directs each of our steps.
9) Your Words Matter.
Speak kind words to, in front of, and behind your friend’s backs. And make sure your words and your actions line up with each other. Be honest. Be loving. Be kind. Be generous. A lady named Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make people feel loved with your words and actions. In a world of email and text messaging, don’t loose the wonder of snail mail.
You are never too old or too young to simply stop and have fun on this journey of life. Laugh until your stomach hurts. Laugh with your friends. Laugh with your family. Enjoy life Savor it. Journal about it. Talk about your experiences. Visit places you think are interesting. When all is said and done, you don’t want anyone to remember you as a Negative Nelly. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and joy! So own that joy, live it out and share it with those around you.
You are dearly loved, my Sister in Christ. This I know, the Lord has a plan for your life that no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind can comprehend or imagine. Believe it. Believe that Jesus is better.
As adults, it can be easy to brush aside the challenges of those teen years, forgetting our own struggles during that time of life. Ross Campbell offers some great advice for parents on how we can really love our teens. Key to his advice: unconditional love in the face of whatever problems arise:
Teens keep coming back. No matter how much they say they dislike their parents, they need their emotional support for success. They desperately need full emotional tanks in order to feel the security and self-confidence they must have to cope with peer pressure and other demands of adolescent society. Without this confidence, teens tend to succumb to peer pressure and experience difficulty in upholding wholesome, ethical values.
Young people really need us to be there for them, building them up in the Lord—reminding them of their worth, their talents, their importance to the Kingdom and the love our Heavenly Father has for each of them. (Not really so different from our own needs, right?)
What piece of encouragement would you offer a teen? Here’s a challenge—find a teenager this week and share with them Lindsee’s encouragement, or your own.