As a writer, much of the work I do is for people I may never meet. As a mother, this doesn’t apply. I’m deeply aware that my primary audience consists of two redheaded teenage girls who are watching as I try to live out my faith on a daily basis.
When my selfishness is at odds with the things I believe, I can’t hide it from them. Despite my many failings, I desperately want to help them see something of who God is and who they are in him. Our teens are growing up in a world that’s constantly telling them that truth—if it exists at all—will be found inside themselves. They’re told that having the courage to follow your feelings and live out your own story is the way to find happiness. The problem with this is that it’s based on a lie. As a result, this search for identity and truth is one of the critical issues facing our teens.
If truth is found by looking inward, we’re left with a host of problems. First, it’ll change with every shift in mood or circumstance. Like a boat without an anchor, we’ll be tossed and swept away by every gust of wind or wave we encounter. Second, truth that’s limited by what we can see and understand will be small. To be the author of our own story might sound appealing, but the stories we scribble for ourselves will inevitably turn out smaller than we hoped. Not only that, but they also rob us of our place in a story that’s bigger than we could possibly imagine and truer than we could dare to hope. Third, this subjective approach to truth has a fatal flaw: it assumes the things we find within ourselves will always be good. A cursory understanding of human nature reveals this just isn’t true.
[Our kids are] told that having the courage to follow your feelings and live out your own story is the way to find happiness. The problem with this is that it’s based on a lie.
If we, as broken people, have the capacity for the pride and selfishness and evil that’s so clearly evident in our world, and in our hearts, then searching inside ourselves for the kind of truth we can build a life on is a dangerous business. If truth is going to mean anything, it must be bigger than we are.
With that in mind, there are four things I want my daughters to know.
1. I want them to know they’re deeply loved by God in Christ.
Not just by myself and their father or their wider family and friends. That love is important but, even in its best moments, it won’t provide the deep satisfaction they crave. I want them to know they’re loved utterly, completely, and without reservation by God himself through the saving work of Christ. They can’t earn his love, and they can’t lose it. Their greatest achievements can’t make him love them more; their most humiliating failures can’t make him love them less.
2. I want my daughters to know the way they choose to live their life matters.
Holiness matters. Holiness isn’t a misguided attempt to earn God’s favor. It’s both a response to God’s extravagant love and also evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges the believers to “walk worthy” of the calling they’ve received. To walk worthy of your calling means not just knowing but also obeying God’s Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as he begins to make you more like Christ. The paradox is that when you choose the long road of obedience, seeking his will above your own desires, you discover that in following him you find your true self.
3. I want my daughters to know they can’t live the lives they’re called to, or tell God’s story in all its beauty, on their own.
In a highly individualistic society, we often miss the beauty and importance of community. We may have been welcomed into the Story, but the Story isn’t ours. There’s a reason why so many of our great books and movies feature a band of unlikely comrades fighting together for something greater than any of them. From the beginning, we were created for relationships. There’s freedom in knowing it’s not your job to save the whole world. Not only does it release you from the paralyzing anxiety that you have to do everything, but it sets you free to commit fully to the specific things and people to whom you’ve been called.
The paradox is that when you choose the long road of obedience, seeking his will above your own desires, you discover that in following him you find your true self.
Whatever our gifts, it’s important we work hard to make them the best they can be. If we’re part of this great body of people, living out the story together, that means our ordinary lives matter. Our actions matter. How we treat people matters. Part of being made in God’s image is having the capacity to love. According to Jesus, in fact, our love for each other is proof that we belong to him (John 13:35).
4. I want my girls to know the Story is true, whether it feels like it or not.
There will be days ahead when the sunlight seems a distant memory. There will be times when they will falter and lose sight of the path ahead. God isn’t surprised by any of it.
The day is coming when he will wipe away every tear and make all things new but—for now—we live in the tension of knowing that even though our sin is forgiven, our brokenness remains an ever-present reality. There will be days when none of this feels true. But the good news is this Story doesn’t shift with feelings or alter with circumstance. It’s not a tightrope we have to walk, constantly fearing that the slightest misstep will send us hurtling to the ground. Whatever happens, the truth of God’s love for us and our identity in him is a fortress that surrounds us.
No matter what my daughters face in life and wherever their journey takes them, I want them to know that the truth of who God is, who they are in Christ, and the Story they belong to is their shelter, their protection, their identity, and their home.