I never meant to write a book on raising teens. I don’t claim to have the corner on how to do it right nor do I claim to have all the answers. In fact if I was tasked to write on anything I completely grasped or mastered the book would basically have a front and back cover. I am a work in progress and I suppose most reading this would say the same of themselves. Probably my favorite lines in this small book are, “There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect teens. And there are no perfect parenting books!” So why write a book about teens then? And more specifically about teens and sex?
To say it simply, because it is needed.
There are many books on talking to your kids about sex but many of them are things to do to prepare for a conversation. You know that awkward conversation? The one that you dread having and then once you have it you hope to never have it again. This is not that kind of book. This book explores how to respond to your teen when you are faced with the reality that they may know more than you thought and possibly be engaging in more than you hoped. The pages contain situations and stories that come from many years of counseling parents who desperately want to respond well to their teens. Leaning on the wisdom of Scripture as well as faithful authors who have more extensive experience than myself helped me to compile what I hope will be helpful tips for parents of teens.They are tips to help keep the conversations going.
Teens today are being bombarded with sexual content and images making it difficult for even the most engaged parents to keep up with. It can feel you feeling exhausted and defeated before you even get a chance to really try and engage them. This book is for parents who are trying to keep up but also for parents who may find themselves feeling behind in this face paced hyper-sexualized world.
The tips given in this book are things to avoid but they are also coupled with positive affirmations of hope for how God can use even the mistakes as opportunities to go deeper with your teen and create an environment that lends toward further conversation.
The book is short enough that even the busiest parents can get through it. The counsel is concise and practical. It is my hope and prayer that parents will come away from reading this with a hopeful outlook, knowing that God is at work in both them and their teen and that they can be a voice in their teenager’s life that influences and guides them towards a life that honors the Lord in the midst of an alluring world.
(This post first appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition)
Incarnating means putting something into flesh. Jesus was God incarnate. God put on human flesh or, another way to say it, he was clothed in humanity. In a similar way, as believers, we are called to incarnate Jesus. We are to be clothed in Christ (Romans 13:14). And indeed we are (Galatians 3:27). As believers our lives become testimonies of this truth. Jesus clothes us in His righteousness. This truth means we are called to resist putting back on the filthy rags of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. Being filled with the Spirit of Christ means we give great attention to the commands the Lord left for us regarding how to interact with people. As we seek to fulfill the first and greatest commandment to love God (Matthew 22:38-39), we are simultaneously called to love others like Jesus loved (John 15:12).
So how do we do this, especially when things are particularly challenging in our relationships? When things heat up how can we incarnate Christ in our conflict?
Show Instead of Tell
Inside each of us is a little lawyer’s voice. Sometimes the voice is small, just little whispers or tiny thoughts. There might be thoughts of how you have done far more diaper changes than your spouse. Reminders that you are always the one initiating the phone call or text message in a particular friendship. Little whispers of how you always apologize first and how you folded the laundry without being asked last week. Often the little lawyer voice gets louder in conflict.
Jon’s wife was upset because she felt he cared more about his golf swing than about her. Jon’s little lawyer voice began flooding him with reminders of how much he has sacrificed for her. Bob and Jane listened to their teenaged son complain that he can never please them and that they never encourage him. Simultaneously Bob and Jane’s little lawyers brought out evidence as recent as that very week proving they had encouraged him. Paul Tripp speaks of this little lawyer voice and how harmful it is in marriage relationships, “I tell husbands and wives around the world that if they want to experience lasting change in their marriage, they first need to fire their inner defense lawyer.”1The truth is no matter what relationship you are in, the little lawyer voice needs to go.
Incarnating Christ means you avoid defending your love and instead demonstrate it. The moment your love is challenged don’t defend it—display it. (John 11:32), or the question from the disciples, “Lord don’t you care that we are perishing” (Mark 4:38), he did not defend himself, but instead he displayed it by raising Lazarus back to life and calming the sea. He showed his love; he did not defend it.
Ask Instead of State
Asking questions is probably one of the best ways we can incarnate Jesus. Jesus was the master questioner. His questions were explorations of the heart of a person. Asking questions opens conversations; making statements closes them. (Avoiding Assumacide”2 says that honoring others with questions rather than assumptions allows intimacy to have a chance.
When Jeff’s roommate shared with him that he had once again fallen to the temptation of pornography, Jeff stated, “If you wanted to stop you would stop.” The statement not only led his friend to feel even deeper shame, but also made him less inclined to share with Jeff again. Asking a question in this situation would have allowed Jeff to learn more about his friend and his struggle and perhaps open the opportunity for Jeff to walk with him.
Hope Instead of Despair
In order to incarnate Christ in conflict, we must lean fully on him. Demonstrating love and asking questions are just two ways to incarnate Christ. Conflicts are full of challenges, and even when we seek to incarnate Jesus there may still be difficulties. We fail in our attempts and can become discouraged. Yet, the Lord is merciful and forgiving and often provides more opportunity to incarnate His grace and love. He is committed to the good work He started in us.
Join the Conversations
Each one of us has had difficult times in relationships. Perhaps even now you are facing a challenge. What are some other ways you have found we can incarnate Jesus in your relationships?