This summer I read Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp. Tripp is the brother of Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart, hands down the very best book I read for raising children during the little years, so I was hoping that this would be something similar for the teen years, and I was not disappointed. The author does an incredible job of reminding parents that this time is an opportunity, not a burden, that these challenges are gifts, not punishments. Below are just some of the things I took away from this incredible read…
In a section titled, “Struggles for Parents”, he writes:
These years are hard for us because they expose the wrong thoughts and desires of our own hearts….We don’t radically change in a moment of trial. No, trials expose what we have always been….So, too, the teen years expose our self-righteousness, our impatience, our unforgiving spirit, our lack of servant love, the weakness of our faith, and our craving for comfort and ease.
He also writes:
It is time for us to reject the wholesale cynicism of our culture regarding adolescence. Rather than years of undirected and unproductive struggle, these are years of unprecedented opportunity.
These are not years merely to be survived! They are to be approached with a sense of hope and a sense of mission. Almost every day brings a new opportunity to enter the life of your teen with help, hope,and truth. We should not resign ourselves to an increasingly distant relationship. This is the time to connect with our children as never before. These are years of great opportunity.
All must be seen as something more than hassles that get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable life. These are the moments God made parents for.
And that is all just Chapter 1.
In chapter 2, the author gets down to the business of dealing with idols – our idols as parents. The ones we didn’t even realize we had and that are greatly interfering with our ability to parent for God’s glory.
Our idols have caused us to see opportunity as trial and caused us to strike back at our teenagers with bitter words of judgement, accusation, and condemnation, behaving toward them with intolerance and anger. While God is calling us to love, accept, forgive, and serve, we are often barely able to be nice.
Life is war. There is a war out there; it is being fought ont he turf of your heart. It is being fought for the control of your soul
Parents who demand comfort, ease, regularity, peace, space, quiet, and harmony will be ill-equipped for this war. They will begin to see their teenager as the enemy. They will begin to fight with him rather than for him, and even worse, they will tend to forget the true nature of the battle and the identity of the real enemy. They will act out of frustrated desire, doing and saying regrettable things, and they will fail to be effective and productive in those strategic moments of ministry in which God has placed them.
We begin to look at our children as our trophies rather than God’s creatures. We secretly want to display them on the mantels of our lives as visible testimonies to a job well done.
It is so easy to lose sight of the fact that these are God’s children. They do not belong to us. They are given not to bring us glory, but Him….Our identity is rooted in Him and His call to us, not in our children and their performance.
Uh, wow. This chapter cut deeply.
Our Christianity often becomes fuzzier the closer it gets to real life, every day experience.
All of life blows into a chaotic mass of meaningless choices unless it is rooted in the one fact that makes every other fact make sense – GOD.
We must be faithful to turn their eyes from what they desire to what God requires.
Teenagers desperately need to see the larger story.
The family is called to be the context in which what it means to love your neighbor as yourself is self-consciously taught at every turn.
When selfishness, individualism, and demandingness create conflict, strife, and tension in our homes, we must thank God for the opportunity to deal with something that He has said is second in importance only to our relationship to Him. If we are truly thankful, we will not opt for quick, surface solutions, but we will work to uncover the issues of the heart that are the real reason for the conflict.
The family is the context where the teenager’s true heart toward relationships is consistently exposed….Situtaions must not be viewed as the groaning hassles of family life. These are the moments when God is calling us to something greater than our own comfort and ease. These are the times when God calls us to love our children with a second-great-command love, so that we are willing to take the time to do the second-great-command parenting that they so desperately need. At such moments, we need to be ruled not by the rule of personal desire, but by God’s rule of love.
This is all from the first four chapters of the book. Part two goes on to Godly goals and then part three gives practical strategies for parenting teens and both sections are heavily underlined in my copy. I was both challenged and encouraged by this book, even though we technically do not have any teens yet. As a parent who does greatly desire peace and space and general ease of life, I was convicted that my attitudes are wrong and that this time is an incredible opportunity to engage my children as young adults and to help steer them down the narrow path of life while the wide path calls with distractions and temptations. As we enter a new school year this has served as an inspiration to me to persevere through the hard days and to continue counting each day as a gift.
For His Glory ~