“What do you do with a bored teenager? What do you do with a bored teenager? What do you do with a bored teenager? Every stupid day?”
It’s summer. School’s out. Routines get thrown out the window and you wake up one morning and go, I suddenly have two kids living in my house and I cannot for the life of me remember what I did all summer long when I was their age.
Good parents go back and forth between trying to entertain their kids and trying to give them learning opportunities – you know, building character, growing interests and hobbies, discovering strange new worlds like the area behind the toilet that needs cleaning. I belong solidly in the camp of it is not a parent’s job to entertain their kids. It’s not about making them happy or keeping them from being bored. I guess it’s partly because I wasn’t really someone who got bored. I still don’t. I find something to do or learn or just find ways to goof off or be imaginative. You know, that imagination thing is kinda cool.
But by the time you reach puberty in this day and age, imagination has been replaced by Youtube and Xbox. Kids watch hours and hours of OTHER people’s imaginations and instead of it inspiring them to do some creative thing on their own the majority of people just click on the next mostly mindless video and the next and the next and the next.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good laugh. And video games can be exciting, especially the elaborate ones that take years to explore every story line and exotic location. But sometimes I think that the overload of fantasy life is just delaying the reality of real life, and you never really learn the things you should be learning to deal with as a kid. How to play with others, how to negotiate, how to create and think through problems, how to build something, how to deal with disappointment, how to learn from mistakes, how to have a conversation that isn’t totally about you, how to enjoy little wonderful things that you always miss because you sit on the couch all day.
For me, I’m learning alot about God by watching my husband parent. I watch him struggle to know exactly what to do and when. I watch him think through the ramifications of his reactions to his children. I see how he balances what’s truly best for them and what is easy for him, because these two things are almost always opposite things. I think being a parent shows even the smallest glimpse of a gracious faithful Father who withholds His righteous wrath against us because we give Him plenty of opportunities to withhold it.
We also fail to see what He is doing for us, what He doesn’t withhold. All we tend to see is that our Dad isn’t running out to buy a new xbox because we broke it, and it doesn’t seem like he is nearly concerned enough about how devastated we are that we can’t play our favorite game RIGHT NOW. This disappointment turns to frustration to hatefulness to anger to pouting to harsh words that we actually sorta kinda mean at that moment.
And it’s a picture of what we do with God. Why aren’t You doing anything? Why can’t You just do what I want You to? Why are You so mean? Why can’t You listen to me? Why do You screw up everything? I hate You.
It breaks my heart to think of the many times these very thoughts darken my soul. Looking at them in black and white like that you might be thinking, as I have, oh goodness I don’t think THAT!? Do I? How awful!
And it boils down to the fact that we aren’t living this life to be entertained and pampered. All the beautiful good things in life are gifts to be cherished and taken care of, for sure. But where we are most content in knowing our Father, we are giving Him the most glory. Like John Piper often says “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” He has labelled it Christian Hedonism, which I guess is ok – hedonism meaning that the ultimate good is pleasure, but significantly redefining pleasure and understanding that true pleasure is lasting and pure, not self-centered and fleeting. That what we seek most is satisfaction, not entertainment or mere amusement.
I was really blessed to grow up in a family who just enjoyed being together. We could sit around and talk, play a game, debate heavy issues as we got older, even disagree loudly, but at the end of the day, we really love each other and find great joy in our gatherings. As the years go by I realize just how blessed we really are. I know so many who dread family gatherings, who haven’t even seen family in years or who go visit for as short a time as possible to just say they did it. I would hate for my children to feel that way about my family. My family rocks. We laugh together, we cry together. We talk about hard things, things that concern us, things we struggle with. We are real and we are gracious. We give advice and we give comfort. We ask forgiveness and we don’t let days go by with grudges on the shelf. We never say harsh words or take out our frustrations on each other, but we are sounding boards, and let everyone speak their minds. We aren’t always “entertaining” each other, but we are together and full of joy.
I want so much for my new little family to grow into that kind of family. I pray daily for my home to be one of acceptance and grace, a place of peace and safe harbor, one that refreshes and sends out with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. I want all our kids to love coming home, to feel comfort like a lotion on their skin when they walk in the door, to not wonder what we’re going to do or if they will be bored. But to know that when we’re together, there is a kind of joyous beauty which is contagious and sought after. And all our days are blessed. May it be also with you.