“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.” Proverbs 17:17
With our oldest away at camp this week and so many memories flooding back, it has got me thinking about teenagers. So much has changed since I was their age, thankfully I have too. Technology and what it enables us to do is incredible. Information is a touch away and we can hold in our hand a phone that contains it all. We have no need to ask a person questions or open a book because of this access. We can also use our phones to order our groceries and either have them brought to our doorstep or drive up to the store and have them loaded into our car. A storefront is hardly necessary really because we can order anything online and it arrive 24 hours later. This is very helpful, but it can also add another cause to our isolation. Why leave home if you do not have too?
What about social media? I know I am not fully aware of the different apps you can use and that is fine with me. It has been a lot of fun to reconnect or stay in touch with friends and family using social media. However, is this adding more unnecessary pressure to our kids? If it seems like “everyone” has plans or has been invited to a party, but your child hasn’t, how do they feel? Alone and insecure maybe. I remember being at a restaurant one night and we watched a group of high school girls take a ton of group pictures. The background was perfect and they were all dressed up. Picture after picture was taken and each time they gathered around the phone to critique the images. This went on forever. What I noticed was their faces were full of smiles and laughter when the pictures were being taken, but the minute the phone stopped, their faces fell flat again. There arms were thrown around one another in unity and then quickly separated. If you saw these posted on social media, you would think they were having a great time. I saw pressure, insecurity, doubt and joylessness. Oh, I have done the exact same thing as a much older girl, so their is no judgement here at all. This just gave me a glimpse into their world.
When kids go to a Young Life camp, their phones are taken up and then returned on the ride home. They spend an entire week unplugged, but they have “the best week of their life”. I wrote a bit about this last time, but I think they are really onto something. When kids are placed in a beautiful environment, fed great food, lavished on with extravagant love, live in a community and Jesus is the main focus, lives are changed. Should this not be happening in our homes too? While food and shelter are often in abundance, what about community and Jesus? While most of us do not have a ropes course or a mountain to climb in our backyards, we do have something to offer. We can open our homes, listen, ask questions, and encourage. As a mom it is always fun to get to know the kids friends. When I see them gathering on our back porch, I am thankful. I do not hover, but I do make time to talk while making a snack delivery.
It is not always convenient to have people over and I really like our family time. However, I am more and more convinced that our home could be the place to be. It isn’t the one I had my eye on with lots of land, but it has a front door that can be opened far more than it is. Why not have community more often and less time isolated behind our screens? What about more time living in reality and less virtual reality? What if the love of Jesus is not only talked about, but lived out around a table of teenagers? What if our homes were filled with the voices of praise instead of silence? I can almost hear it now!
This is the life that happens at camp and it is phenomenal to be apart of. I remember as a teenager, the days after coming home were hard because I missed my community and the life it gave. I think kids today are hungry for that life too. Our churches offer wonderful youth groups and fun activities, but could we do more on the other days of the week? What if our homes became more of a camp like experience and we were open to whomever the Lord brought through our door? It may be two or three or it might be more. Our homes become a place to belong, not just for our family, but for others too.
Research is showing a rise of suicide, mental illness, depression, drug use and the list could go on, among teenagers. I wonder if we put a graph of increase of technology along side these tragedies if we would see a correlation? I am pretty certain we would. I do not blame all our problems on technology, but this seems pretty obvious. Would community, worship and love change this reality? I think it is worth a shot. Let technology do what it will and social media be enjoyed, but we can set boundaries and not let them lead us into seclusion. (As I type this I am very aware that I will post this one social media;) We can be better friends who love at all times and siblings, either in Christ or related, that help each other.
We have some obstacles in our way and that is frustrating, but the Lord knows what we need to make this community idea happen. I truly believe this was His idea and it started before kids as a spark and was greatly fanned into flame when we had our eye on that other property. It is about to be bought by someone else, but I trust Him. In dreaming about that place, tons of ideas came and I would love to see them lived out here too. So, we will see what He has in mind and follow His lead. I will keep you posted on His work!
I can say this from experience, life is better with a community to share it with. Each week I gather with women and study God’s Word. We read, discuss, pray and at one study, sing together. I am so thankful for these groups. This takes planning and an importance placed on protecting this time. It quickly becomes a habit and one I love. By the way, if you need a place to belong and grow, let me know and I will save you a seat. I know this works and believe it can help with what our teenagers are desperate for. After all, we were created to live as the body of Christ. A body is not just a leg or a neck, but has many parts that come together to function and live. As Paul David Tripp said today in his devotional book, “Life in this fallen world is hard. That’s why you need a community of love.” Let’s show this world what a healthy body looks like and love well in communities that welcome like Jesus. We might be made up of senior citizens or we might be a mix with a variety of ages, but we will be loved.