Teenagers are a unique breed. Yes, I meant that statement. They really are different from the rest of us. :) They are living through a time of tremendous growth and development. You might even make some comparisons to babies growing in the womb. Both are preparing to enter a place they've never been before. The baby is working to develop all of the pieces and parts they need to survive outside, away from their mother. The teenager is working very hard to develop all of the skills and knowledge they will need to be successful away from the comfort and protection of their family. Both have spurts where growth is rapid and times when it slows down so they can catch their breath. Both endure influences from the outside and must learn to filter or tune in, so to speak, as they continue on their journey. And both that wee little baby and our growing teenage boy must deal with surges of hormones that cause abrupt changes in their equilibrium. It is how they deal with this change that makes or breaks their healthy growth.
Matthew is spending Tuesday through Saturday this week in Encounter. Our Youth Pastor, Pastor Mark or PM as he's known around here, is a wonderful man of God. He created this time each summer to take a group of teens from Middle School through College and provide opportunities to give of themselves. To do mission work right in their own backyards. To make the time to spend with God on an intimate basis. To seek the Lord and listen to what he might have to say to them personally. It's kind of like Camp Week, but they get to go home every night and offer their parents a glimpse inside what is happening to them throughout the week.
Matthew wasn't really sure what he signed up for, and neither was I quite frankly, but if PM is in charge, it has to be good. So he signed up at the last minute. We attended an organizational meeting on Sunday where PM passed out the agenda for each day, gave us the 'get them here on time and pick them up on time' pep talk, and basically laid out their responsibilities for the week. Smart man. Something in those hormones prevents them from 'getting it' easily. He knows you need to give teenagers the basics, in writing as well as verbally. Yeah, he's a Youth Pastor! LOL Anyway, Matthew was to pack his lunch every day, bring his Bible, a notebook, some 3x5 cards and work clothes so he could, in one weeks time, work hard for others, spend time in the Word, and memorize 16 Bible verses that would bring meaning to his life. Matthew was a bit dazed. Mom and I were thrilled.
On Monday, as Matthew shared with is friends where he'd be all week, he was told once again how stupid he was for signing up for something like that. He's been told he was stupid when he offered to help their parents do yard work, pull up tree stumps and so on as well, but he usually lets it roll off his back. Yesterday, he was thinking maybe they were right. Could he really memorize 16 verses of the Bible in a week and write them down? Could he really spend 45 minutes a day in prayer at one time? Could he read the Bible and do the activities they expected, and have fun doing it??? I think he was wondering if his friends were right.
Matthew arrived home for a few hours, before being picked up by Poppy once again, in time for some dinner with us. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was thrilled when I saw the animated, excited, and overall peaceful teen that walked in the door. He told us story after story about their day, regaling us with stories of his strength, his friends jokes and what they accomplished in a widow's yard as well as at the church. He introduced us to the phrase "She's such a Barbie", which will certainly come back to haunt us all over the next few months, and he exclaimed that he felt good having memorized three verses already, realized he could apply a few others to his life at that moment, and enjoyed hard physical labor when done with friends. I'd say the day was a success, wouldn't you?
Matthew and Jonathan spent some time together throwing a frisbee before Poppy picked him up again so he could help mow their lawn. Since Mom is providing the transportation to and from Encounter, he'll be staying with them for a few days. As I watched them play, I couldn't help but wonder what he'll be like when he comes home again. How will he have changed? What will PM and the Lord have done with him in just a few days? Will some of his teenage bluster be gone, replaced by a more mature young man? How will spending intense time in the Word change his choices for a lifetime? What can we do here to continue this new era in his life? How can we support him through this as he changes before our eyes once again? And how will I need to change the way I parent him to account for his changing maturity?
Indeed life will be different. Matthew will have left behind some more of his childhood as he moves on in his growth and development. He will have changed more deeply than I will probably realize for awhile. I suppose what remains to be seen is how I can change with him, moving on to meet his new needs, altering our home even more to embrace the Lord as the center of our home. But I think what I will learn from this week is that I need to allow the Lord to parent him even more than I do. After all, he gave my children to me for a time. A time that he expects I'll instill in them his word. A time that I am to raise them up as strong men, grounded in Him. And then he'll take them and use them to glorify his Kingdom. The Lord saved Matthew's life when he was just a few days old. He has his hand on him. There is a special calling on his life. And this week more than ever before I am asking myself what I am doing to prepare him for that.
Lord, give me wisdom and an even bigger sense of humor. I've got a few more years with him. Let me do it right and have fun along the way.