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Our Teens Are Being “Pulled Apart” And Here’s "Why"

There is a Greek Proverbs that says: “You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.” I’ve never participated in archery but I can tell you that our modern bows are much different than the long bows that were often carried during those times. I can recall from movies that if an archer has been traveling a great distance, they would carry the bow, unbent. The reason for this is that the constant pressure on the wooden bow will eventually cause the bow to snap. The constant strain and stress of the pressure is too much, so the tension must be released. Another interesting fact is that if the bow is kept bent the arrow is far less likely to fly straight. Not very clever, I know. I didn’t even bother to be sneaky on my approach here. But you get it.

In today's culture, our teens, the Gen Z’ers are learning to test-drive a variety of differing emotions. The difficulty is that sometimes they have no idea how to explain or express them. For teens, their whole world is built on being social and for the past year that has been interrupted. During a normal year this can be very difficult for teens, but the pandemic has made this exponentially more difficult.

Think about it: our jobs as parents. Is to teach them to become fully functioning and autonomous adults. “Their job is to become more independent and to be able to go out in the world — and they’re being restricted right now. Imagine what that must feel like” says Jill Emanuelle, senior director of the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. For us, being able to listen (without the cell phone in our hand or one eye on the TV, or the clock) and validate what they are feeling is more important than ever. We all too quickly forget how fickle and trifle WE were as teens. Think back for a moment, remember how devastating it was when a classmate came to school with the same lunchbox or remember having to wear last years “new clothes” in August because your family didn’t make enough to lavish a new wardrobe when school started up.

We could sneak away...they can pull up an instagram post as a reminder of their frustration and anxiety. “Being able to simply validate these disappointments can go a long way with helping our teens manage this,” he added. “Because this is their reality. This is their world.” says Nicholas Westers, a pediatric psychologist with Children’s Health.

Things are beginning to open up and more people are gaining access to vaccines, but that doesn’t mean we are immune to the “loss” that’s been experienced over the past year. You’ve been watching your teen over the past 12 months and have seen “their bow” being bent further and further.

What interesting is that the Greek word for ANXIETY is the word: merrimnao. This word literally means: pulled in opposite directions; "divided into parts" or “to go to pieces.” Wouldn't you agree that’s kind of how a lot of us are feeling, like we are being broken into parts or watching our kids fall to pieces.

Picture this, you’re driving in your car with your teen and a normal story about relationship woes suddenly turns into full blown sobbing and trying to figure out why such small loss feels so devastating. It’s because for too long, their bow has been bent and it’s no longer just about not being able to sit next to their best friend at lunch, it’s about a cascade of losses that have been piling up. Even in a normal year things like breakups, job loss, a failing grade, or divorce can feel devastating.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

What we are being told here is not that we WON'T ever worry or be anxious, but he’s saying "stop worrying." Worry, anxiety, depression, these things will happen and their desire is to take away our PEACE and make us feel divided. In fact, in Matthew 13:22 Jesus reminds us: the cares of the world...choke the word and it proves to be unfaithful.” Our word for WORRY is derived from an Old English word that means, “to strangle.” Yes, worry and anxiety, these are part of an internal strangulation. What our enemy wants more than anything is to make us unfruitful and he has an endless arsenal of worry, depression, anxiety, and often, unforgiveness to make it happen.

On the OTHER hand, the Greek word for PEACE is a stark contrast to being “in pieces.” The Greek word for PEACE is EIRENE from the verb EIRO which means to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated. Cool huh? Our common English expression of “having it all together” means that everything is as it should be and in its place. This is a good Biblical definition of what Peace looks like. The question isn’t just what do we need, but how do we help our teens to “get there.”

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Much of the anxiety that our teens go through or even sense from us is because of broken relationships.

How interesting that much of our anxiety comes from not being “WHOLE” or at peace with those around us? Much of the anxiety that our teens go through or even sense from us is because of broken relationships. We do our best, but even in an age of churches and “prevalent Christianity” many of us are still broken and hurting ourselves. Look at the remedy that Paul suggests: BUT IN EVERY SITUATION. This means that we can apply what he’s about to say, regardless of of the situation. EVERY situation is a not so fancy way of saying: You have no excuse to ignore the remedy for what I’m suggesting because no matter what, this applies.

Philippians 4:6 by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

We remind our teens to take all of our pieces to God, in prayer and we present them so that we can be made WHOLE again. We remind them, that through thanksgiving means in addition to presenting our requests that we also make it a habit to remind our own hearts of ALL the things we have to be thankful for. Much of the anxiety that comes from loss, from fear of being rejected, from fear of failure etc is overshadowed as we see them in light of ALL that God has already accomplished in us! We also find that He has also prepared us for these moments.

Philippians 4:6 …present your requests to God.

We pray, we petition the King of Kings on behalf of our requests, but also, what happens when we learn to present our requests to God on behalf of a person with whom we are at odds? What happens when our students see their parents being willing to set aside petty unforgiveness to intercede and pray, to petition on another’s behalf for THEIR GOOD rather than for justice?

In fact, seeking justice keeps us in pieces and keeps us at odds. Besides, are we willing to accept justice for our own actions as willing as we are to seek it for another’s? What I am suggesting is that we try to live out the very thing that we are expecting them to do. Peace comes when we’re made WHOLE not only with God, but with those around us. But keep living at odds…keep the bow bent…and it will SNAP. Ever think about where that common phrase for being angry came from? “He just SNAPPED?!” (Maybe) My guess is, his bow was bent far too long.

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