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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.

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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.

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