The Questions in Their Hearts
When I first started working in a classroom, friends and family asked how I would maintain discipline with a room full of teenagers. Short and soft-spoken, I worried about that, myself. Turns out, keeping good discipline isn’t the hardest part of working with teens – not even close.
It’s the uncertainty.
Some students have endured terrible tragedy. Many are struggling for normalcy, for direction. And others just want to know they matter. In the face of such deep uncertainty, science and social studies can seem trivial.
Keep in mind, I work at a small, private school. I see a narrow slice of the whole. What must it be like in the rest of my community? I wonder… And what will it be like in the coming years, when we have so many children orphaned and bereaved in the opioid crisis?
For many students, despite the steady stream of consumable media, answers to their deepest questions can be difficult to find. Believing women have an incredible super-power that’s often overlooked.
You can tell them how you see them.
Teens may spend a lot of time thinking about themselves, but I’m frequently astonished at how little they can see themselves. Tall, gorgeous girls dressed up for picture day hunch their shoulders and pluck at their dresses self-consciously. A gracefully athletic kid will slink along the sidelines, too scared to join the game without being asked. The quiet guy who always sits at the back of the room has wise insight he keeps to himself, thinking others will ridicule him.
So start small, build up a little trust, but tell them all the potential you can see in them. The kids in your church, your neighborhood gaggle of teens, even the shy cashier – all of them could use a positive word of encouragement in their day. Don’t forget, you have the answers to the questions they’re asking:
“What am I here for?”
He has a plan for you, and it is very, very good. (Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 55:11; John 10:10)
You can tell them that they’re not an accident of nature. Rather, they are a unique creation, lovingly designed. And that careful Creator wants good things for them. Their talents and passions were given to them by One who is cheering them along, watching with joy when they use those gifts. Sometimes all they need to get started is a little encouragement. Notice their artwork, the way they craft prose (or a short, poetic tweet), how helpful they are. Point out the talents they might not see in themselves.
“Am I valuable?”
You are not your own, you are bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:20)
Tell them that, not only are they created for a purpose, but the King of the Universe paid the highest price to set them free. That makes them precious. Tell them the story of the one lost sheep, the pearl of great price, the love that wouldn’t give up.
“Does anyone care?”
Your heart is safe with Him. (1 John 3:1)
When I see couples getting googly-eyed at one another across the room, it’s a good time to remind the whole class that Jesus is the only safe place to keep their hearts. People mean well, but we’re all human, and we all mess up. I tell them their heart is unbelievably valuable – it’s one-of-a-kind. No human can bear its weight. The Lord is the only one big enough and good enough to take care of a heart! (I know; I get scoffed. But three weeks later when the googly-eyes have turned to stink-eyes, there’s a little sniffling echo of agreement…)
Ladies, we sometimes sell ourselves short. We think we have to be in the ministry, or study pamphlets or curriculum to have all the right words to say. We think we don’t know enough high theology to share our faith with others. And, I know, teens can be a little intimidating to approach. (Have you seen their pants? Weird, right?) But now, more than ever before, uncertainty is roiling beneath that cool-kid exterior. Your compassion is a blessing that can brighten a life.
We sometimes sell ourselves short. We think we don’t know enough high theology to share our faith with others.
Who do you see? Who might need to hear the answers you hold in your heart?
- Unity Cafe - October 9, 2019
- When Trouble Comes - May 8, 2019
- Timely Obstacles - January 23, 2019
What a great post! And sadly, it has not dawned on me that kids have lost parents to the opioid epidemic. A great reminder to declare God’s love to the next generation!
It’s so bad here! There’s a real hunger for purpose, which has emboldened me.
I’m not around teenagers much anymore, but I really like the practicality of this post. And these steps are appropriate for any age.
Thanks for this, Cole!
I really started to think about it when I broke my hand 2 years ago. Strangers were so kind to help me with things and to encourage me. But I wondered, “What if my hurt was on the inside…?” No one would know, but the kindness would mean even more!
“Believing women have an incredible super-power that’s often overlooked.”
There is one thing I’ve learned over the years, and it is that there is no loss to me to build someone else up. And the benefits to that someone are incredibly far reaching. I wish somebody had said those things to me. What a difference it might have made!
Yes! Those little pearls we collect and keep with us, the special comments ?
I can just picture you in the classroom, surrounded by uncertain teenagers, and I find myself immensely grateful to God for putting you there. Very meaningful stuff here. You must have a prayer group lifting you up on a regular basis. May God continue to give you effective witness of His great love for them. Praying my granddaughters have teachers like you!
Sarah, you’re such an encouragement! Thank you–I do <3
What a life-giving post, Cole. Thank you. I work with young adults in my church, and sometimes, though they are a little older (some by just a year or two), the same doubts and oppression continue on. I love this practical way to encourage our young people, and really – anyone.
Yes, and that time period, for me, was really the hardest, I think. I felt adrift. It’s a big deal to pick a college major and try to feel your way toward it when you’ve really just dipped a toe in adulthood! It’s hard for us all to see our gifts, at times.
I love this post, Cole. I am constantly remembering how grateful I am for teachers. They have SO much influence!! And power to encourage, or shatter.
Recently our son has been contemplating becoming a teacher. I think that is an amazing possibility. As much as we need teachers in general, I believe more godly male teachers would have an incredibly positive effect on our culture.
So much influence it’s scary! They remember the most off-the-cuff comments, sometimes. I love the quote from Fred Rogers, to watch for the Encouragers. Lord, let me be numbered with them, and not the crushers…!
Absolutely thankful for the adults that my kids had in their lives growing up. Some who just loved them and showed it in the little teasings and the cheering at their sports event. We undervalue the little things that we can say to boost people up as we keep tangled in all the fear and insecurity of not being accepted, or being laughed at or ignored. When all the world needs is us exerting our super-power of God’s love.
Thanks for this Cole. Something to remember whenever I run into…ah, anyone!!
I have my head in the clouds so much; I need to be more aware of those I meet *outside* the classroom. (I’m usually thinking about what to do about so-and-so *in* the classroom, haha!) Seems like January is ending on a February note of love! 🙂 Dig it!