My first year teaching middle school was fraught with surprises. None greater, however, than when a student who was into the rap scene came into school with a cowboy hat, boots, and a belt buckle the size of a Cracker Barrel pancake announcing, in a slow southern drawl, that he was now, “back to my old self." I quickly realized that this age I had taken on to mentor and teach was a whole different species of humanity. As a parent of two middle schoolers and a teacher of 100, it just seems like a tough day and age to be an adolescent - much more difficult and confusing than when I grew up. Take a couple examples below as proof.
Just today Facebook announced that they now have a selection of over 50 for gender choice. I know it's old fashion, bigoted, and just plain backward, but identifying one's gender was always a pretty easy thing to do. If we’re confused about gender, no wonder these kids are trying to change themselves every 12 hours. We used to talk of the self-made man; now we learn we are neither a self nor a man.
Don't Judge Me
Here’s another. A couple weeks ago, I was monitoring detention with what I thought would be a quiet hour of reflection for this blog (yeah right), and a kid told me that his trouble-making was “just who I am”- basically a quote right off the front page of our cultural dictionary. Another thing I hear quite often is "don't judge me" or even more frequently "are you judging me?" This generation is demanding that you accept them for who they are, which has been predetermined from birth and unchangeable. We have replaced the mind, soul, and will with a material body whose dictates cannot be overruled. Instead of the courage and faith of Narnia, we have become the soulless Walking Dead.
The Eternal Weight of Our Choices
To be honest, if all this wasn't so serious, it would probably be darkly comedic; our decisions have eternal weight, and wrong choices ought to draw our deep sympathy. It is what the Bible calls foolishness. There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is death. What can be known about God is made plain, but they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. Our kids are growing up in the later half of Romans 1. Read it if you haven't already or read it again if it’s been a while.
You know what all this reminds me of? Nineveh. What was God's assessment of that great city? They don't know their left hand from their right. How did God respond? He had compassion for the city and gave them time to turn their lives around. They were ruining themselves and confusion followed suit. The essence of sin is idolatry resulting in confusion, and it’s why God hates it so very much.
Confronting the Lies
So what are we to do as parents and teachers? One thing is to confront lies with truth. We do have an identity - a firmly set identity that we need to be constantly reminded of. We are united with Christ. We are dead to sin and alive to God. We are crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. Where and how do we confront lies with truth? Deuteronomy says when we are walking on the byways and highways of life. Highways can be dangerous, and places of deprivation and want. We are not to look away from those who are confused and hurting but rather help those in need and instruct our kids in the process.
How inordinately small and trivial to identify ourselves by the things of this world when the God of all wonders, the creator of the galaxies and quarks desires not only to fellowship with us but to indwell our very being? How puzzling and petty to realize our identity based on the clothes we wear or oddly enough in one of the 50 gender selections from Facebook rather than the surpassing greatness that lies in knowing and being known by Christ. It is the high call of Christian teachers, parents, and pastors to constantly remind our kids (and ourselves) of this reality.
Bill Riley teaches secondary math at Lakeland Christian School. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.