My son is graduating from High School this semester! Why the big exclamation point, you ask? Well, it is a miracle of sorts, really, and it reminds me that all things are possible if only we believe. Plain and simple: raising teenagers is profoundly difficult. There have been times, ever since he turned eleven, that we did not believe this day was possible. And there are days, even now, when I still wonder how we have managed to get to this point, after all the heartache and the overwhelming feelings of grief and defeat.
"But he's a bright kid," people tell us. "You should save these celebrations till he graduates with honors from some prestigious university." Some people don't have a clue! Believe me, a high school diploma is something to celebrate. Too many teenagers fall so far away from grace in Middle and High School that we dare not take anything for granted. Reality is this: If our so-called "good" family can struggle so deeply for so many years - a family with two interested parents, high levels of education, adequate income, a supportive extended family, and an active life of personal faith - then we need to understand that struggle is the norm, and not something we should pretend doesn't exist and avoid talking about.
Here are some messages to pin up on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror in bold type:
1. We are not alone! Many families have teenagers who drive them nuts!
2. We are not alone! There are others in the same boat who will talk with you, pray for you and encourage you.
3. We are not alone! We have grandparents, uncles, and aunts who are there to help.
4. We are not alone! God loves us and He loves our children.
My Grandfather told this story on himself. He was riding in a railroad car back in the days when Church denominations were known as "persuasions." The conversation turned to religion. One man said he was a Baptist, another a Methodist, a third said he was Catholic. "What is your persuasion?" one man asked my Grandfather. "I am persuaded," he quoted from Romans chapter 8, "that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God....". And nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate my teenager from the unconditional love I have for him.
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