So be very careful about the sort of lives you lead, like intelligent and not like senseless people. This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.
– Ephesians 5: 15-16
God has called you to be amazing. You are his son or daughter, his child. He has chosen that you would be born in this time period—this present society of totalitarianism, abortion, euthanasia, and the domination of social media—so that you can live out your very unique vocation. Which means it is up to you to be the face of Christ in the continual growth of an anti-Christ society. “It was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
What does that mean for you right now? Maybe you’re 13, just beginning to grow out of childhood. Maybe you’re 16, a little further on, but still unsure of whether you are child or adult. And maybe you’re 19, very much in the beginnings of the adult world. Whether you’re 13, 16, or 19, or 14, 15, 17, or 18, the point is that you are a teen, which means you are be-tween stages in life. Which means what? You are in a transition, and a very crucial one.
Of course, transitions never stop. You will always be in some sort of transition for the rest of your life. Right now, however, the sort of transition you are in is very clear. As you enter your teen years, you are still a child. When you leave your teen years, you should be an adult. When you turn 20, you should have had about 7 years of learning time.
In fact, in our culture, you legally become an adult when you turn 18. And being an “adult” means responsibility and maturity. The voting age is 18. This means that the government thinks that at age 18 you are responsible enough to decide who is going to lead your province, state, territory, or country. That’s actually a pretty big deal. 18 is also the age when you can go to war without parental permission. That is a substantial choice. Are we ready at 18 to make that choice?
The thing is, as adults, we have to take our life in our own hands and be rational human beings. There was a time, not that long ago, when marriage at 18 or 19 was not uncommon and was perfectly acceptable. Now, that seems a bit young. But go back a few centuries earlier. Girls were married at 16, 14, and sometimes even 12. Currently, I think we would freak out a little if someone was getting married at 14. But back then, men and women knew hard work and were taught responsibility because of it.
Your job as a teen, then, is to take advantage of these in-between years and learn from them. They may be very difficult years as you come to terms with leaving your childhood behind. Of course, we cannot simply become totally serious, grave, long-faced men and women who think that games are merely for children and that we must work all the time. And of course, Christ told us that we must remain child-like in order to enter Heaven. But we must be mature as we grow older, knowing when to be serious and when to be light-hearted. Another facet of maturity is knowing when to rely on other people’s judgement and advice, while valuing our own independence.
And in these transitional years, you may come to learn that you have to make your faith your own. Your faith is a choice which cannot simply be inherited from your parents. Sooner or later, you will have to decide for yourself that you want God in your life.
I remember making that choice. I was a little younger. When I was about 10 I was sitting in Mass one day and realized that I should probably pay attention to the homily. Normally, when it came time for the homily, I would sit down and say to myself, “Time to let my mind wander!” But then the day came when I realized that I was supposed to listen to the priest. I think it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started to pray on my own, and do spiritual reading on my own. But I do know that it was my choice.
It is a choice I still have to make every day.
I often fail in that choice.
Part of being an adult is learning where God fits into your life, and then acting on the decisions you make. If you want God in your life, then he has to permeate every single aspect of your life, excluding nothing. He will come into your daily chores and your relationships with friends, family, teachers, enemies, and strangers. He will come into your Walmart shopping trips and your Tim Hortons coffee breaks. He will come into your hobbies and how you care for your pets. He will come into your schoolwork. But you have to let him in on a deep level, so that at every moment of the day you are somehow, somewhere in your soul, aware that your every decision will influence your relationship with him.
When I made that choice to let God in, I began to have a personal relationship with him. It sure is a rocky one, and I spend a lot of time putting space between us, but the personal aspect is definitely there.
How does all this play into being an adult?
When we let God into all our choices (without becoming scrupulous—trust me, I’ve been there and it is not a fun place to be), we allow him to influence the outcome. Acting on our faith in God should help us to become more mature, responsible people.
With the current issues of the LGBTQ community and “gender identity”, our response to the world has to be the claiming of our identity in God, as men and woman, male and female. We have to lay claim to our sexuality, and take pride in how God has created us. We must be masculine men and feminine women. This is how we will witness to the world. We know we are men and women. We don’t have to choose our identity. The only choice in question here is the choice to own our sexuality as a gift, and to treat it as such.
Men and women of God–you are God’s chosen.
“This then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:
“Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
“Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.”
– Ephesians 3: 14-21
This is Part One of a four-part blog series. Watch for the next three parts: “Real Manly Men”; “Be Gentle, Be Strong, Be Beautiful”; and “Don’t Let Your Age Define You”.