The world tells us our feelings are our truth. Emotions or circumstance define you…in that moment. But feelings and circumstances change leaving an unstable foundation of beliefs. Friends, this is one of the biggest issues facing our tweens and teens today. Two others are busyness and a cultural value of specialization.
We invite you to dig deeper into these three issues in the 2nd of the 3-part podcast series Heidi and I recorded with local youth pastor Scott Jones.
Our hope is that the conversation we had with Scott helps you better guard against the blind spots the enemy sets up so that your family continues to be God-centered.
▼ If you haven’t yet, Listen to Part 1 or Jump to Listen to Episode #19: Characteristics of a God-Centered Family, Part 2? ▼
Issue #1: Subjective Truth
Preschoolers to teens throw out a myriad of feelings and emotions to see what will stick. God designed us to have all of these amazing feelings, but He never intended for us to be ruled by them. God alone is to be the king of our hearts, not every emotion that comes along.
We love our children by pointing them back to the One who gave us these emotions, praying with them as they experience the wide array of emotions, and being a sounding board as they process what they’re feeling.
More often than not, BIG feelings can get much smaller when they are brought out into the open. Satan loves to make us feel like we are the only ones who have ever felt a certain way or experienced something. Teens can breathe a sigh of relief to hear you talk about how you deal with your own feelings or how you walked through a similar situation.
You don’t have to have all of the answers. Dive in with your kiddos. When you don’t know, go back to the character of Jesus answer questions like: Who is Jesus? What does Jesus do?
When we take time to meditate on who Jesus is, it allows us to take the attention off ourselves. This alone can be a reprieve from the overwhelming tide of emotions. It also gives us an opportunity to remind our kids that when they’ve been adopted by God and they have Christ Himself and the Holy Spirit in them. They can readily call on and rely on the power of God, His Son, and His Spirit to not be swayed by every thought and feeling they have.
Issue #2: Busyness
Scott also brought up the fact that many families are so busy. Kids are scheduled from sunup to sundown.
Busyness in and of itself isn’t sinful. But, it’s a slippery slope that can take us from just being busy to outright idolatry. We end up making an idol out of our full calendars, pride in our children’s achievements, or in our role as parents.
Anxiety is another side effect of busyness. When there’s no down time there’s no time to process all the feelings mentioned above, nor is there time to just be still. The result? Anxious hearts.
So we look to Scripture for the antidote to anxiety. What we find is Jesus taking time away from the crowds and even His friends to get quiet, to pray, and be with God. He wasn’t hurried or rushed. He had time for people, particularly people in need. If Jesus is our perfect model, then we should take our cue from His pattern of living. We can model and direct our kids to make space in each day to be still before God. Read our Bibles, pray, and allow Him to speak to us. It’s hard to hear from God when our minds are racing in anticipation of all of the things we have to do that day.
Instead, let’s be a people who trust God to order our days. Let’s pray and ask Him to use our time for His glory. In the process, our kids will learn that they too don’t have to have every minute filled with a sport, or lesson, or club.
Issue #3: Generalist vs Specialist
My sister and I had a conversation recently in which we discussed how in a world of specialists, we are definitely generalists. It seems like everyone we know is really passionate about something or they’re really good at something. But we are not. We are good at many things, passionate about a lot of things, and enjoy participating in and learning about all sorts of things!
Yet one look at the sports offered to preschoolers let’s us know that our culture wants our kids to get plugged in early and stay locked in. Teenage baseball pitchers are requiring shoulder surgery because of overuse. High school musicians quit orchestra because they are sick of playing an instrument they once loved.
Sadly, in the midst of forcing specialization, we lose our wonder. We miss out on determining what we like and don’t like. God has given us so many wonderful ways to experience His world, through the arts, athletics, nature, and so much more. When overscheduled, anxious, and hyper-focused, we are robbed of the chance to be amazed at God’s creation and at God Himself.
Please don’t misunderstand me. If your kid is crazy about football, or painting, or dance, then by all means help him along that journey. This is more a caution, and from our chat with Scott, he’s noticing it too.
One by product is that our kids never learn that it’s perfectly normal to be average. Yes, I said average! Most of us won’t go to the Olympics, or have our novels published, or be in a movie. Most of us will live amazingly average lives. But when those lives are lived wholeheartedly for God, they are truly spectacular – not because we are anything special, but because they point others to an awesome God.
Finally, it’s imperative that parents know they have to walk alongside their children. It takes time to help our kids work through their feelings and to refocus their time, attention and hearts on the Lord. It takes intentionality to say no to some activities, thereby making time for a kid to just be a kid. It takes introspection to make sure we aren’t making an idol out of our full schedule, our kids’ activities, or in our role as mom and dad. And it takes self-control to not succumb to the culture’s call to force our kids to be specialists.
Christianity is counter-cultural! In every way, following Christ means being different than the world we live in. God knows living this way isn’t easy. That’s why He empowers us to make God-honoring choices by His Holy Spirit and Christ in us.
And this conversation isn’t over! To discover the characterisitcs of God-centered families, we invite you to finish this journey for Part 3.
#19 Characteristics OF A GOD-CENTERED FAMILY, PART 2
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Many thanks to WTA Media for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own.