This summer I have been working on a series of lessons based around drawings. To kick that off I did this lesson you see here. There is something almost mantra like about the opening to me. I wrote it, so it is weird to say, but it is a very cool way of pouring advice into teenagers without pouring advice into them. The actual lesson part is a little more straight forward. I would project the next piece of the drawing and then would talk about it and continue until I had a whole picture of what it means to be a child of God on the screen. You can see the drawing below (I like to leave it hand drawn looking so that the teenagers aren’t intimdated to try and draw it)
It is a very strange thing when you find out that you are going to be a parent. It sort of shakes you to your core and you have all sorts of thoughts and dreams and ideas. You also have a whole lot of fears. For me I had lots of fears that most people don’t have at the beginning. You see being a youth pastor is my life. For 20 years I have been working with teenagers helping them to figure out who they are and who God had shaped them to be. So I had a whole lot of fears about those teenage years and I have wanted to find a way to help my son get through those even before he was born.
But how do you help? I wanted to give him advice, but working with teenagers I have learned that advice about behavior doesn’t help.
I could tell him not to speed, but he would still drive 90 mph through town no matter how much I tell him about tickets or show him wrecked cars and read him statistics. He would keep speeding because to him those problems are things that happen to someone else.
I could tell him not to have sex before he is married because there are lots of diseases and pregnancy is a possibility and even more than that there is something more about sex than about anything else and there is this union that comes between two people and when you do that too soon or against God’s plan it just makes you both feel empty inside.
I could tell him these things, but they wouldn’t make a difference because consequences are what happen to other people and no matter how much I try to tell him that I know what I am talking about he will never believe me.
I could tell him to not mess with people’s hearts. I could tell him not to do things to make himself feel good at the expense of others, but he would never listen to me, because he won’t understand that doing what feels good or funny or heart saving in the moment won’t feel good later.
He won’t listen because he doesn’t have years of regret showing him how he should act.
I could tell him to stay away from cheap imitations of intimacy that he finds on a phone or on a computer. I could tell him how those things will make him feel worthy and special for a moment, but only for a moment, how the next moment he will feel empty and alone and cheap and miserable. But he won’t listen because he will think of me as someone out of touch, out of date, someone who doesn’t understand how the world works who is just trying to keep him a kid and from growing up.
He will never understand the real pain in my heart, the wounds which are healed, but still show the scars from when I did those same things and thought I was different and thought all that mattered was what was happening in that moment. He will never understand that what I am trying to do isn’t to keep him a kid, but to protect his heart and to keep him from having to face these same demons of his past that I have to face.
I could try to remind him that he is still growing, that he is still figuring out who he is and all of the rules that I throw on him aren’t to keep him down, but to help him to be ready to face the world when it comes in. I could try to explain that I was trying to help him to practice, but all he will think about is getting into the game and he will look at me like I am an idiot and break my heart when he decides that I am not trying to help, but rather just trying to keep him a kid.
These are the fears that I had when Nathan was still not yet born. I tried to figure out how I could say these things to him, but I knew he would never listen. So I tried to think of some way that I could save him from these same things in a way that he might actually listen.
When it came down to it I came up with an idea not to help him figure out how to stay away from stuff. He would never listen to that advice.
So instead of trying to fill his life with advice I decided that from the very beginning I would try to make sure that he grew up knowing who he was. So every night when he went to sleep I would tell him who he was, and now when I put him and his little brother to bed each night I remind them of who they are by saying:
You are made by God. You are a unique creation, the product of His perfect imagination. You are being perused by the love of God each and every moment of your life. He will never leave you alone.
You are valuable because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are valuable because He created you. You are valuable because He has chosen you. You have been picked by God to be a part of His great adventure. He has a place for you that only you can fill. He has called you by name and set you apart to follow him in place where only you can go.
You are a warrior, a mighty force against the powers of evil. You have been chosen to be a part of God’s plan to change the world.
You are also my child and I love you more than you can even understand. You are the some of all that is good in me. You’re my greatest gift, my greatest accomplishment. I am more proud of you just because of who you are than you will ever know. You will never have to do anything, say anything, be anything to win my love. I love you because you are you.
So as you go to sleep tonight rest in the love of God and the love of your mom and me. When you wake up tomorrow tackle the new day with wonder and excitement. Try new things; follow new paths; go where no one else will go; don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Hang on to God and his plan for your life and follow Him as He leads you places most people are afraid to go.
Don’t be ruled by the opinions of others. God loves you, Mom loves you, and I love you. Let that love set you free to be who God created you to be, not who other people want you to be. Stand strong against evil wherever you see it. Be a champion for those who can’t fight for themselves. Treat everyone you meet withe the respect that they deserve as a creation of God.
If they can grow up knowing these things then all of the other things that they need to worry about will be easier to handle. If they can know who they are in God they can have a better idea of how they should respond.
This drawing lesson helps to teach this advice. At the end I also add a few case studies so that we could discuss how this truth can help people in their daily life.
It all begins with God, if we don’t believe God is who he says he is then we all of the rest of this stuff won’t matter.
So Let’s start with God
and while we know lots of things about God let’s start with the fact that God is absolutely in control. He is king
This God, the king is also a creator and he made you.
I know this may not look like you, but you can imagine it is you. So you have God who made everything and then you have you. So what do we know is true?
God Values you. Let’s talk about that for a moment. You are important and valuable because God has said you are important. You are valued because God values you. Think back over the course of your life and think about the things that you have done just to try to get someone to like you or to feel like you are important. I would imagine that list is long. Some of those things worked out, others made you feel worse when they were over. But ultimately all of them left you feeling a little empty because you can only find your value from God.
We also know that God has chosen you. I was never picked, ever. Some of you know the pain of getting picked last at sports. I was not only picked last, but was often not picked and just dumped on a team. It hurts not to be picked. But now I know that I am chosen by God.
You see not only did God make you, and he values you, but he has also chosen you. There are people in here who would do anything to be chosen. Some of you are worried about being chosen by the right guy or girl, or the right school or the right club or group of friends. But you want so hard to be chosen that you would do anything, including things that you know will hurt you and people around you. You are chosen by God. Let that truth roll over you.
That means that you don’t have to struggle to be chosen by your peers. You don’t have to do stupid things to be chosen by some girl or some guy. Let me tell you, when you are in love you should do stupid things. You are in love so show your love extravagantly, just do it without being stupid if you understand me. Love shouldn’t have to be secret. Love shouldn’t have to hide. Love shouldn’t need a 7 second snapchat timer. You were chosen by God, so don’t worry about being chosen by someone else. Trust me I know this is hard, it is hard to remember that this is true.
and you can know it is true because you God proved that love on the cross. The cross is what makes all of the true, and because God, the creator of the universe God made you, chose you, valued you, He sent his son Jesus to die for you to show you just how much he cares for you. And if you will believe this, takes this into your heart and turn you life to Jesus as your Lord,
Then you will have God’s holy spirit inside of you and it will remind you that all of the rest of this is true about you.
(When I taught I did the case studies here, but I am going to continue on and finish out the drawing)
So you see this is true about you, but you have a choice.
Will you live like this is true or like what other people believe is true.
You can choose to take the view that you were made by God and that the cross sets your value and the cross is what chose you. Or would you rather
Choose to live as someone who gets their values from their actions, their body, their accomplishments, or from the approval of others.
All of those things sound good and they work for a while, but the problem is those things don’t last and eventually they leave you empty, alone, and feeling worthless.
So you have a choice. Live like someone who is valuable because they were chosen by God or live like someone who gets their value from these other things. Which way will you live?
Case Study One:
Bill is 16 years old. He isn’t classically handsome, but he is cute and he is full of charisma. When it comes to girls the chase is as important to him as actually finding someone to date, but he would never admit that to anyone. All he knows is that when he is actually in a relationship he feels restless and it isn’t long before he ends up looking for someone new. It isn’t that he likes to hurt people, in fact he feels bad when he breaks up with someone, it is just that he can’t find anyone who is as exciting when they are dating as she is when he is trying to convince her to go out with him.
- What is Bills problem?
- What is the heart cause that makes bill act this way?
- How can our drawing help Bill?
- If you knew that Bill would listen what would you tell him?
Case Study Two:
Julie is trying hard not to be a stereotype. She is young, but looks older than she is. She is continually being sought after by older guys and she wants to pursue relationships with them, but her parents keep putting blocks in here way. She doesn’t want to be the typical teenage daughter who whines about how her parents “always treat me like a child” and who tells people, “I’m not a kid anymore.” But it seems like those words keep coming out of her mouth. Sometimes the guys that she is “talking to” end up asking her to do more than talk. She wishes she could explain to her mom about all of the pressures that go on in her world. She wishes she could explain that her phone is her lifeline, it is also the place where she feels the most pressure to do things that she knows she shouldn’t. From everything Julies sees her mother is just being a prude. The world isn’t like it was 20 years ago, now everyone sends pictures to everyone else.
Julie still feels a little weird about the things she is being asked to do. But there is this one guy, this guy who seems to like her and who everyone else seems to want. Since it is this guy who is asking her she is pretty sure she will do whatever he wants.
- What are some of the feelings that you think Julie is struggling with?
- Why do you think she is feeling pressured to do things she is uncomfortable with?
- How can our drawing help Julie?
- If you knew that Julie would listen what would you tell her?
Case Study Three:
Ben is the kind of kid who everyone thinks is friends with someone else. In other words, he is around, sort of on the edges of the youth group. He engages people from time to time and generally seems to be happy, but he really isn’t close with anyone. Most people just figure he hangs out with people outside of the group or something. In fact most of Ben’s life is spent alone. His parents are around, and they love him, but they don’t know how to help him find people to hang out with or to find things to do besides just sit and watch TV all summer. Ben generally feels invisible. He feels like if he wasn’t around few people would notice. Ben doesn’t really blame people for not liking him. He can’t seem to find much likable about himself either.
- So what are some of the reasons why Ben might be feeling this way?
- How can our drawing help Ben?
- What advice would you give Ben?
- What advice from our drawing would you give the people in Ben’s life?
Case Study Four:
Katie is Mrs. Everything. She is captain or president of every group she is involved with. She has her life planned out, including the non-negotiable names of her 3 children (two boys and a girl) and at what age she will get married and start that family. She cannot fail at anything. At least that is what she tells herself. She is just 16 but there are already tons of people counting on her. She has adults constantly telling her what an example she is and she is afraid if she takes one wrong step she will be letting those people down. Katie has a hard time saying no to people and as a result spends most weeks exhausted from extra projects. But still she has trouble sleeping some nights. She can’t seem to shake the stress that seems to dog her every move and she is often afraid of failing or just missing something.
- So what is Katie’s heart problem?
- How could our drawing help Katie?
- If you could give Katie some advice that you know she would listen to you what would you say?