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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Adolescence/Teen Years (07/16/09)

TITLE: If I Could Give Them One Thing...
By Karlene Jacobsen


I’ve been asked, “If you had your teen years to live over again, what would you change?”

My answer is this: If I had it to do all over again, nothing would change. I would be back at the same spot I was then—with the same knowledge and wisdom.

Is that a pessimistic way of looking at things? No, it is more realistic. Besides, why would I want to go back and even hope to change the past? That’s history. We can take history, though, and apply it to the present. In so doing, hopefully help our teenagers navigate through many of the struggles they face today—compassionately.

I have been told the teenagers today face more difficult challenges than I did at that age. I am not sure I agree.

Technology is more advanced. The Xbox, game boy, WII, and IPOD have stormed the gates, while our teenagers look at us with that “WOW, you’re old,” look when we talk of Atari, our first tape player/recorder, 8-track, reel-to-reel movies, and VHS. Computers are as plenteous in many homes as television sets. Microwaves replace many conventional ovens. In some families, the cell phone has taken the place of the house phone. Text messages bombard our air space in abbreviations, such as: TTYL (talk to you later), IDK (I don’t know), LOL (laugh out loud), ROFL (rolling on floor laughing)—and on the list goes. Actual conversation…minimal.

Although technology has advanced, personal issues remain the same. The root problem has never changed.

What is the root problem? We live in a fallen world where temptation begs to be fulfilled, and our teenagers struggle with identity, acceptance, conviction, and (I believe) a God-given desire for independence.

If I can use my teen years to teach, encourage, or direct their lives, then the struggles I faced will not have been in vain.

I grew up in a religious home. Our family attended church on Sunday, but the rest of the week was full of anger, adultery, abuse, lack, incest, divorce, and distrust.

If home was not bad enough, school was worse. We were outcasts. My brother was marked from birth as the object of other kids’ ridicule and scorn—a cleft palate and lip insured that. I was marked because I was his sibling.

I prayed for God to fix my broken family. He refused. I believed He cared more about others than my pathetic existence. By my seventeenth year, I believed God could not be trusted.

That same year I left home and God. In my running, I collided with Him. It was then that I learned that church and God aren’t the same; attending church without relationship was religion; a man-made tradition to soothe a wounded conscience. Upon this realization, I surrendered my life to Christ, and only then was I able to find peace and strength to fight the raging seas within my heart.

So, perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “If you could give your teenager one thing, infuse in them one truth, before they leave home, what would it be?”

The teen years are probably the most difficult time of their lives. They are transitioning from children to adults—hopefully. They are beginning to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. They must discover how to make wise choices.

One day I will no longer be their shelter, protector, or disciplinarian. Soon they will be driving, voting, going off to college, beginning careers, and starting families of their own. My role will change from telling them what to do, to discussing life with them, offering advice and hoping for the best—as parent-friends.

So this time is critical for me, as the parent, to help them navigate. Experience tells me they need a compass. That compass is Jesus, not a weekly visit to the building called a church. It is imperative they recognize they are temples, created to host the Holy Spirit of God, to have a vibrant and lively relationship with Jesus—instead of religion.

So, if I could give them one thing, it would be an unwavering faith in God. I would beg them to seek God out—find Him.

He must be ultimate in their life; to trust Him, to know that when the storms rage on—and they will—He will keep them in His care. God is their wisdom. He alone will guide them safely through these most difficult years and beyond.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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Christina Banks 07/23/09
I love how you shift the focus from self to others in this piece. I, too, have been asked what I would change if I had a chance. I like how you showed that, in reality, we probably wouldn't change anything. Your question is a much better question to answer - and I think you are right on with the answer that you give. Thank you for submitting this great entry!
Seema Bagai 07/23/09
You packed a lot of things to ponder in this piece. Great message at the end.
Bryan Ridenour07/27/09
Super entry that I could see in a parenting devotional book. Well done!
william price07/27/09
I like a well written devotional. You gave me a lot to think about. Way kool. God bless.
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/27/09
I'll bet you could find a magazine to republish this. Great job! I'm so thankful my parents were able to do this with me.
Allen Stark07/28/09
You wrote on one of my main concerns for not only our teens, but for modern day Christians: religion vs. a personal relationship with Christ. When it comes to working with my 17-year-old going on 25, we're on the same page. Thanks for the great piece and share it far and wide!
Diana Dart 07/29/09
Bravo. I'm nodding strongly here at my computer. This was spot on and yet packed full of emotion - not preachy, just sincere. May I say that your children are blessed to have a wise mother such as yourself.