TEEN TIME TENETS & TECHNIQUES

The real crux of parenting lies in the way we grasp and understand the nuances of it, especially how it differs from marriage. 

The basic tenet of the marital relationship is that it is one of growing interdependence, which is the real core to becoming one, not just in flesh, but in every way.  The growth in marriage lies in knowing and realizing that it is important and necessary to give up individualism if the two are to become a couple, a family, and a community.  The order in marriage, as laid out by the Apostle Paul in Eph 5, is for this transformation to happen in truth and spirit, so that Eccl 4:11-15 and Matt 18:18 become a reality!

In contrast is the parental relationship, for it is one of growing independence, wherein the child grows and moves from total dependence on the parent(s) to one of increasing freedom. From holding the child tightly in hand, to letting him or her stand on their own two feet, to taking baby steps, to begin running slowly, pick up speed and finally, even move out of control and purview. As the child matures, both physically and psychologically, the real crux of parenting lies in holding two things in balance – insisting on dependence and releasing to exercise independent choices. 

The greatest need and skill of parenting is to know and understand when to hold and when to let go, when to demand and when to acquiesce, and when to decide for them and when to allow them to decide.

GREATEST NEED: Teenagers especially need the freedom, space and time to experiment and experience life, as it comes to them, and not as we want them to have it. Teen time is a season to learn to flex muscles, stretch wings and exercise own choices. Teenage is a phase to shrug off childhood, as a tree sheds its old leaves, and don on the garb of an adult. 

Teenage is a transition stage that is quite a scary because of much uncertainty and instability one faces in this time. Teenage brings changes in physique, psyche and pneuma that is truly terrifying since it is all new and unknown. It is an age when the person is trying to find their feet, test their mettle and seek their place in a very harsh and unforgiving world. The world around, however, doesn’t sympathize with their struggles or condone their mistakes, but demands much from them, and that too very early, before they are ready. This is the reason teens gravitate towards their own kind as they look for security, stability and affirmation.  Teens always need and seek out safe environments and secure companionship where they can vent out their frustrations and longings without fear of being bracketed or branded as rebellious.

Unfortunately, at a time when they need the greatest understanding and most acceptance, they get the greatest rejection and extreme ridicule, especially at home. Parents are the prime defaulters in this since they expect either too much or too little from them. Instead of finding the home a haven of rest or a harbour of peace, they most often find it to be an unwelcoming and unpalatable place to be. They feel like strangers and aliens with their own parents and family, and therefore, opt to be with friends. They become silent, sullen, and withdrawn or aggressive, loud-mouthed, and destructive. 

GREATEST GIFT: Parents are flabbergasted at this sudden change of their child from a loving cherub to a vocal adolescent and therefore, are often clueless to handle this seeming stranger in their home. Even Jesus parents did not know how to handle him when at the age of twelve he decided to stay back in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50)!

The reason parents are unable to comprehend a teen is that we do not understand or accept that the greatest gift God bestowed on human beings is freewill. God gave us this gift and He respects the choices we make by exercising our freewill, even when we hurt Him (just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden in Gen 3). God honors and respects our freewill, but works to transform us in a way that will not trample over or violate His own gift. If God Himself does it, we also need to imitate Him.

We must accept that our children have been created to have the right to exercise their freewill and train them on how to use it rightly. We must always remember that our children have life of their own and learn to accept them whether they are following us or choosing to carve out their own life in their own way. We must respect the exercise of their freewill so that they learn to take responsibility for their choices and become wise.

Most teens in India play the blame game, conveniently foisting guilt on to parents for what they do, just because we haven’t allowed them to face the consequences of their decisions. We often step in and bail them out of thorny situations of their own making, thinking it is an exhibition of love. True love is willing for the child to learn so that he or she may grow to be mature and strong. Passage into adulthood is all about learning how to correctly exercise freewill and bear the cost of what your choices bring.

GREATEST LEARNING: Parenting teens is all about allowing them to experiment with choices and experience the result of them, the good and bad, within the safety of our home, our care, and our protection. It is about teaching them to develop acumen for decision-making and equipping them for a home of their own. It is helping them acquire skills needed to survive and succeed in this world, without getting swollen up with victories nor swallowed up by failures. It is enduing them with resilience and resistance to handle relationships and responsibilities that go with intimacy and familiarity. It is equipping them to deal with protocols and strictures expected of adults, as well as learning how to wade their way through life’s myriad circumstances. 

A parent whose goal is to train will ignore infractions and temper tantrums as they are concentrated on fitting the teen for adulthood, not on winning a battle against thrm. A teen parent is a coach, not a rival of their child, seeking to empower to play the game. Parents need to develop a reserve of strength and stamina to bear with the mood swings, temper squalls and failure patterns of their progeny. They must fully concentrate on the making or shaping of the boy/girl into manhood/womanhood. This attitude will enable you not to waste time in wallowing in self-pity or indulging in anger displays since you are focused on the end result. You will be one who looks beyond the present to the future and see where or what your child should be, rather than who or what they are now.

Be careful of your thoughts and words in this season of parenting for they can help or harm your child if you are not in control of these two things. Many a child gets marred and scarred for life because we have been so impatient and infuriated with them that we speak hurting words in a bid to spur them on. 

GREATEST SUPPORT: Crucial to this period of parenting is the need to have a community of people around who will help you tide over this season with their own prayers and encouragement. These need to be people with whom you can download your woes, share experiences, rejoice over triumphs and weep over misdemeanors. They will bolster you with wise counsel and when you have a trusted few to vent the hurts your teen unwittingly and unknowingly inflicts on you, it will help you to go on living with positivity and grace. 

It is important in this season to not allow other people’s words and opinions impact you in such a way as to put fear rather than faith in you.Your teen needs protection from other people’s criticisms and complaining, and so avoid putting down your teens or exposing their faults in public. Their ego is very fragile at this time and so can easily be hurt if too much negativity is around. Learn to act and not react, especially to other people’s comments, showing compassion, foreknowledge, and hope. 

If you are to survive this most trying period of parenting, prayer must be the very breath of your life and not an after thought. Bend your knee in prayer and submit your will to the Lord in humility and healing rather than in vindictiveness and vengeance,so that you receive grace to handle the situations as they rise. Without His help, both for you and your child, you cannot survive this period. So, make prayer and spending time with God a priority and a prerogative rather than a beginning- or end-of the-day event.

If you must love and tolerate your child in this period of life, you need to be filled with love through the power of the Spirit since you won’t ever be able to even bear with your child at this time. Receive from God all sustenance you need to sustain you as you help your child navigate through the murky waters of teenage to safe and solid ground if adulthood.

GREATEST CONSOLATION: Bolster yourself with the thought that this too shall pass and soon you and your child as well as your family will be whole again on solid ground. Stand in the side-lines as guide and coach, allowing your ward play the game, rather than making them puppets controlled by your strings. Let your child know that he or she has the freedom to come or not come to you and therefore, learn to accept them, their friends. Make your home a welcome place for them and their cronies so that they seek you and don’t make them run away by rejecting them with you well-meaning judgements and criticisms. 

Above all, trust God and walk in restful peace and quietness of Spirit so that your home is heaven not hell for your child. Take heart in the knowledge that He is sufficient for all and entrust your child to Him for He will keep until the end what you release into His Hand (…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Tim 1:12 NIV). 

Remember they are His, not ours and therefore, be careful to exercise stewardship and not ownership over your child, expecting them to fulfill your dreams!

Just as the Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses to his mother and told her raise him up for her, even so God has given us our child to raise for Him. When we are faithful to this call and this service, He Himself will reward us.

May we be those who receive His commendation, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23 NIV.

God bless!

*Pics courtesy https://www.parentcircle.com/

GROOMED FOR THE WEDDING

When our family conducted our daughter’s wedding, I realised that while Marriages are made in heaven, weddings are done on earth!

The amount of planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, as well as the number of people involved in making it happen, is mind boggling. After  our daughter’s wedding, my husband and I had a chance to go somewhere alone, and boy, did I really need it to recover, both physically and emotionally!

Much effort and work is always needed to pull off a wedding. Apart from finding and fixing a venue, meeting with and arranging caterers, printing and distributing cards, inviting and involving people, purchasing dress and ornaments, ordering return gifts and cake, taking care of hospitality and transport, choosing and ensuring decorations, a thousand and one duties need to be taken care of.

When weddings are scheduled, some have an year to get ready, while others may have just a month or even less to get it done. Whatever the time period available and the trappings arranged for a wedding, the grooming regime of the couple, especially the bride, is given utmost priority. Most women take time to plan and execute the care of their face and appearance, often undergoing beauty treatments, both au natural at home and those done in parlours.

The bride-to-be often goes for a full-body makeover, pampering herself over a month or more. A bridal package these days includes free trial of makeup and hairdo, besides threading, bleaching, waxing, polishing, styling, spas, therapy, etc. Smart brides do take care to go on a diet and exercise routine to have a well-toned and well-nourished body, in readiness for their big day.

Getting a bride ready, fitting her to look her best on a day when she will be the cynosure of all eyes is a huge task and process which the beauty industry has turned it into a lucrative business. Vendors and beauticians have grabbed hold of the trend. They have capitalised on the occasion and cashed in on the focus, making sure that the bride is indeed the showpiece of the whole thing!

In the Bible, we see that when King Xerxes, the ruler of Persia and Media, sovereign over one hundred and twenty provinces, wanted to replace his Queen because she offended him, he was advised by his counselors: Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Let the king appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful young women into the harem at the citadel of Susa. Let them be placed under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let beauty treatments be given to them. Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This advice appealed to the king, and he followed it (Esther 2:2‭-‬4).

Being a monarch of high order, these young women underwent a time of rigorous preparation and prolonged training since one of them would eventually be the next Queen. According to Scriptures, Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics (Esther 2:12). They were not just prepared physically, but also drilled in deportment, etiquette, manners, protocols, customs, court bearing etc as well as taught the history of the country. They learnt the art of pleasing the king, and endowed with every training to bring joy and pleasure to the king. They had to be flawless in looks, intelligent in conversation, sober in conduct, and impeccable in character. They had to keep themselves fit and ready, not have wandering eyes or attention, focused on him and fixed on only one thing – be ready to please him and serve him when summoned. They were being groomed for one purpose and for one goal only – be acceptable to him. What a picture of all is involved in being and becoming the bride of a king!

There is a wedding in the Bible that comes in the culmination of the ages, an event that the whole of the universe is waiting for with eagerness. In Rev 19:6-8, we read thus: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people). The key here is that this bride, as any bride, has made herself ready. Without that preparation, she cannot be joined to her groom.

Who is this bride who has made her self ready for her bridegroom? It is the Body of Christ, the people of God, His Church. set apart for Him and as His Church, we are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ. We read that Christ loved the Church and gave His life for to her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault (Eph 5:26‭-‬27 NLT). As disciples and followers of Christ, we have been chosen to be His special people and are being trained to rule with Him, to be seated together with Him on His throne. We are to share in His authority and are the centre of all attention, the cynosure of all eyes and the crux of all His plans (Eph 3:10). Are we aware of the beautifying that we need to have in order to be pleasing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

There is an agenda for us and we are in the process of being made fit for the King. Are we aware of it and are we yielding to it, cooperating with the Holy Spirit Who is the One appointed and entrusted with the task of grooming the bride?

Any bride will tell you how much pain and discomfort she has to endure in order to be fully fit and in form. There is agony when her skin is being scrubbed and polished to shine and glow; there is torment when her brows are being shaped to highlight her eyes; there is exertion when her body is being toned for the best effect; there is patience when the right makeup is being chosen; there is endurance when appropriate garments are being searched for; there is waiting when various alternations are being made; there is care when matching accessories have to be chosen; there is sacrifice and testing when diet is being administered. Besides all this, there is anxiety and anticipation, fear and frustration, besides sorrow of leaving behind certain way of life and excitement for the new things ahead. All in all it is an arduous time and process, but she goes through it all so as to be the best and see her bridegroom’s eyes light up at the sight of her beauty, binding him to her all their life together. She submits to this ordeal to be pleasing to the one she will walk with until the end of her days.

As the chosen one, the Church is in the course of being prepared to be the Bride of Christ and as such, being daily groomed and vigorously prepared to be like Him in every way. Only when she is in His image, perfect and lacking nothing, can He come to claim her. If a human bride prepares herself so intensely for her earthly husband, how much more the church should prepare for her heavenly bridegroom! If a woman is willing to undergo a regime to best present herself to her man, how much more should the Body of Christ endure to be acceptable to Christ!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11 NIV) declares the Word of God. Only when we yield and not resist the dealings and discipline of the Spirit of God, without resisting or withstanding Him, but willingly submit ourselves to His dictates can we be transformed into the image of Christ and be pleasing to Him.

The Bible declares that, Esther, the Jewish orphan girl raised by her uncle Mordecai, chosen as one of the candidates for the king, had such a posture in her preparation. When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her...The king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. And the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed a holiday throughout the provinces and distributed gifts with royal liberality Esther 2:15-‬18.

The bride of the Lord Jesus the Lamb is the Church, whom He has purchased with his own blood. He is waiting for her to complete her cleansing so that He can and claim her. The attitude and disposition of the church has to be to submit to the fashioning of the Lord, as the clay yields itself to the potter, willingly allowing herself to be moulded into His image and paying the price in patient trust until that is accomplished.

May we, as Christians and members of the Body of Christ, humble ourselves to accept the discipline and discipling of the Lord until He comes to claim us as His own.

May we with grace accept every dealing of the Lord with the understanding that His plans for us are to prosper us and not harm us.

May we proclaim And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Rom 8:28‭-‬30 NIV)

Let us allow ourselves to be groomed for the King and the wedding ahead!

*Pic courtesy google images