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It Doesn't Have to Be That Way

The summer before middle school my mom took me on a weekend trip to Galveston. A lot of good memories were made on that trip. We ate my favorite foods, hung out at the resort pool, and had lots of good conversations.

While the weekend was really about preparing me for the changes that entering middle school and teenage years would bring, there was one conversation in particular that I still find relevant and inspiring at 28 years old.

She described the nature of the "typical teenager" our culture expects to see. The" rebellious" one. The "anti-parent" one. The "embarrassed by adults" one. The "too cool to talk to others" one. The "just follow the crowd to fit in" one. And she said something that completely shifted my entire mindset for my teenage years :

It doesn't have to be that way. You get to decide.

Being a teenager is hard. Emotions are highly developed while the part of the brain that tells you whether something is a good or bad idea isn't fully developed until your twenty's. If that's not ironic, I don't know what is.

It's easy for teens and society as a whole to just assume that "typical teenage" behavior is just part of the gig. That they have no choice in the matter. That this selfish, angry, rude stage is just thrust upon them for the next ten years of their life and they, along with everyone around them, just have to live with it.

While it's true that these "typical" emotions are something that every teen faces, it isn't a reality that has to define the teenage experience.

It doesn't have to be that way. You get to decide.

As a preteen, I found this truth liberating and it completely changed the way I viewed my teenage years. It took me from believing I was simply a passive victim of an ugly stage of life to an active decision maker with a world of opportunities to love, serve, encourage, and flourish.

But I tend to think this idea goes beyond preteen advice.

It's something that we all could live by... every single day.

As Christians we could change the world around us, by doing just that.

Studies show that church attendance has been declining for the past few decades and Millennials top the chart with the largest population leaving the church. In fact, in the history of the church, no generation has left in such record numbers. With that in mind, it's worth considering...what is our response?

They say Christians are hypocritical -

Preaching one thing with our words, but living a life that is the complete opposite.

They say Churches are shallow and lack true community.

Sunday mornings only have time for small talk.

They say Churches don't make a big enough impact in surrounding communities.

That other organizations do a better job at serving and loving people.

It doesn't have to be that way. You get to decide.

As Christians, I think we sometimes forget we have a choice.

All of these listed behaviors are something that we all face.

It's easy to see our sinful selves as the passive victim of an ugly thing called sin.

But that's not the case.

We are active decision makers with countless opportunities to love, serve, encourage and flourish. Much like stereotypical "teen" qualities don't have to define the teenage experience, these stereotypical behaviors don't have to define the Christian experience.

When others look at us, we get the choice of what they see.

Let them see the real us - the struggles, the strivings, and the victories.

Let them see a person who genuinely cares.

Let them see us putting aside our own conveniences and comfort to serve and love others.

Let them see the freedom, hope, and joy that adoption and redemption in Christ brings.

The world is full of brokenness, loneliness, and pain.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience...And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Colossians 3:15 & 17

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