Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is almost impossible. Well, it is if you plan to bypass the emotional rollercoaster it tends to be that leaves you mentally and emotionally drained and sometimes, on the really bad days, physically ill. My teenager has transformed—right in front of my eyes I might add—from an adorable toddler who wanted nothing more than to make his mother beam with joy and surprise to an adolescent monster with an arsenal of secrets and lies that would impress Frank Abagnale Jr.
Maybe I am being dramatic. Maybe this isn’t at all what parenting a teenager is like. Maybe this is just the bad karma, the rotten fruit I must reap from the countless seeds of deceit and trifle I sowed when I was a bratty teenager. Either way, the cycle continues: teenager does something he has no business doing, teenager gets caught, parent responds, teenager apologizes, parent forgives, so on and so forth. However, there are times when I don’t want to forgive right away. Times when I want to withhold my mercy for a little while hoping to intensify the guilt and shame of the act. That maybe this will prevent said teenager from making a poor choice in the future. But then I am reminded of our Father in Heaven whose mercy endures forever.
I try to imagine what it must feel like to have to parent us. The bright side of parenting teenagers is that one day they mature and hopefully, stop making “teenager” mistakes. But how must it feel to parent “forever teenagers”, broken people who continue to mess up, get into trouble, repent, and repeat? What would it feel like to experience a rollercoaster of disappointment, anger, sadness, regret for millenniums? Yet, he continues to grant us the mercy to avoid the punishment we do deserve and the grace to receive the blessings we do not.
This is what I remind myself of when my teenager peaks his head into my bedroom door, or when he walks in with his head hung low, or lays his whole body across mine in an awkward embrace and says, “I’m sorry”. I remember that we forgive because we have been forgiven. I know that parenting is hard and sometimes parenting teenagers can feel impossible, but I remind myself of the many times I needed parenting which consisted of more than just “tough love” and “cold shoulders” but of agape love and warm embraces even after I had messed up. I remember that it was not the guilt or shame of what I had done that spurred in me a desire to change but the unconditional love of a father whose arms are always open to me because of the undying love of a Savior who made it possible for me to return. This is what keeps me humble, and it is in the humility of my own brokenness and flaws that I find the strength to forgive, to love, to embrace, to parent that hard-headed teenager of mine.
Five years ago, my husband and I visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida for our honeymoon. We were blessed to have a room just paces from the beach. Late in the evenings, we watched turtles emerge from the ocean to find a safe place to bury their eggs until it was time for them to hatch. In the early mornings, we listened to the lull of the waves lapping the shore.
There are so many options when your temporary residence is the ocean, but there was only one thing I had to do before we left: sit and watch the sunrise. Exhausted after the wedding and subsequent flight, the Pontoos decided to sleep in our first morning in Florida, but before climbing into bed that evening, I made sure to ask Google what time the sun would rise the next day to which it replied: “6:01 A.M.”
I set my alarm for 5:50 A.M. to allow myself enough to time wake Phil. We settled ourselves in our spots in the sand and waited for the sun. At 6:00 A.M., there was a faint orange glow in the distance on the horizon and within five minutes, the sun had risen in all its brilliant glory.
It was in that moment of reverent majesty that I received a revelation. What if everyone operated in his or her purpose the way the sun does? The sun rises and sets each day on time because that is what it was created to do. Its ascension and descension are pivotal in how and why our world functions with systems and schedules the way it does. What would happen if one day the sun decided it was not going to rise? What if it decided it was not going to do what it was purposed to do?
Each day, we rise and each evening, we climb back into bed, but how many of us rise with purpose? How many of us rise with the intention to do what we were created to do? How many of us are living each day on purpose?
Imagine the chaos that would ensue if the sun refused or was apathetic toward its purpose like many of us. Now identify the areas of chaos in your life. Are you operating on purpose with purpose on your job, in your community, in your home? How have your actions or inactions contributed to the dysfunction you see? How would your life be transformed by a personal decision to live each day conscious of the power your God-given purpose possesses? We were created to glorify God. I encourage you to ask yourself every day you are blessed with a new day “In all that may be going on around me, how can I give God glory?” and watch His power be revealed in your life.