In my time working with teenagers and their families, one of the most common things I hear can be summed up in one word – impossible. From the tyranny of our schools, our coaches, our jobs, and heaven help us, even our churches, where is the time for our family?
“It’s impossible to raise teenagers.”
And nobody else knows it until they have gone through it. Not to belittle those exhaustive years of nursing and raising an infant, or the serious complexities of child rearing when they make so many serious transitions from the ages of 3-8, but dealing with teenagers is a horse of a different color!
And the biggest thing I hear as a youth minister is “I feel like I am failing.”
If this is you, please allow yourself to breathe. Perhaps you need to repent of some things, perhaps you need to truly forgive yourself for some things, I don’t know and that is not why I am writing this article. My hope is to encourage you.
You are not alone.
I recently read an article on the gospel coalition blog entitled, “Parenting – The Joyful Impossibility”1 by Paul Tripp, author of Age of Opportunity (which if you have not read and you are a parent of a pre-teen or teenager, it’s the first thing I recommend to you!). In this article, he reflects on a most humbling, even embarrassing night on his way home from a late night grocery run caused by the fact that his 4 children didn’t have lunch for the next day. In his car, he stopped, even briefly considering the possibility of singleness again, and came to the conclusion he was given an impossible task to do.
The Joyful Impossibility Continued..
“How is it possible to be the dad of 4 kids?”
Overwhelmed, he felt like he had “nothing left to face the next day of a thousand sibling battles, a thousand authority encounters, a thousand reminders, a thousand warnings, a thousand corrections, a thousand discipline moments, a thousand explanations, a thousand times of talking about the presence and grace of Jesus, a thousand times of helping the children to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see themselves with accuracy, a thousands ‘please forgive me’s,’ and a thousand ‘I love you’s.’ It seemed impossible to be faithful to the task and have the time and energy to anything else.”
Does this sound like you? Be encouraged.
He reflects on that night being one of the most profound moments of grace in his life thus far, as if a “burden was lifted.” That night he learned two extremely valuable things.
“1. I faced the fact that I had no ability whatsoever to change my children. In ways that I had been completely unaware of, I had loaded the burden of change unto my shoulders. I had fallen into believing that by the force of my logic, the threat of my discipline, the look on my face, or the tone of my voice, that I could change the hearts of my children, and in changing their hearts, change their behavior. Daily I would get up in the morning and try to be the self-appointed messiah of my children. And the more I tried to do what I have no power to do, the more it angered and disappointed me, and frustrated and discouraged them….In my home, as I tried to produce change and growth in my children, I acted as if there were no plan of redemption, no Jesus the Christ, no cross of sacrifice, no empty tomb, no living and active Holy Spirit. That evening God opened my eyes to the fact that I was asking the law to do what only grace could accomplish, and that would never work. I began to understand that if all my children needed was a set of rules and a parent to function as a judge, jury, and jailer, Jesus would have never needed to come.…I began to realize that as a parent I had not been called to be the producer of change, but to be a willing tool in the powerful hands of a God who alone has the power and willingness to undo us and rebuild us again.”
“2. I faced the fact that in order to be a tool of grace, I desperately needed grace myself. In a moment of confessing and forsaking my delusions of autonomy and self-sufficiency, I faced my weakness of character, wisdom, and strength. I admitted to God and myself that I didn’t have inside of me what it takes to do the task I was called on to do. I did not have the endless patience, faithful perseverance, constant love, and ever-ready grace that were needed to be the instrument in the lives of my children that God had appointed me to be. And in that admission, I realized that I was much more like my children than unlike them….It hit me that If I were ever to be the tool of transforming grace in the lives of my children, I needed to be daily rescued, not from them, but from me! That’s why Jesus came, so that I would have every resource that I need to be what he has chosen me to be and do what he has called me to do. In his life, death, and resurrection I had already been given all that I needed to be his tool of rescuing, forgiving, and transforming grace.”2
What struck me the most in reading this article was that the night in which Paul faced the impossibility of it all on his own was actually the most freeing, joyous night he had in a long time. It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:10, “But he (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Are you feeling weak? Let the power of Christ rest upon you, knowing that when you are weak yet seeking Christ with the very core of your being, you are strong for you are promised by God Himself that it is no longer you working in your child’s life. It is He.
1. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/01/11/parenting-the-joyful-impossibility. Paul Tripp. “Parenting – The Joyful Impossibility.” Jan 11, 2011.