I am hurt and lonely. Turn to me, and show me mercy. Free me from my troubles. Help me solve my problems. Look at my trials and troubles. Forgive me for all the sins I have done. Look at all the enemies I have. They hate me and want to hurt me. Protect me! Save me from them! I come to you for protection, so don’t let me be disappointed. You are good and do what is right. I trust you to protect me. (Psalm 25:16-21 ERV)
The words of King David ring true for many today, especially teenagers. It is so easy to feel isolated and alone at that age. In many cases, these kids actually ARE isolated and alone. Sometimes it’s in their own heads, and sometimes it’s external, as a result of normal social inclusion/exclusion rites, or worse, as a product of bullying.
I notice this especially with girls. Gossip and rumor-mongering are bad enough, but today’s technological advances have made hateful talk accelerate to light speed. Couple that with this generation’s reliance upon/addiction to their mobile devices and it becomes nearly impossible to get a positive thought in edgewise between all of the notifications.
So what’s a parent to do?
I believe that it all starts with integrity. Integrity and uprightness, or honesty, is all we have left when everything else is taken away. This is true for adults as well as teens. If we lose everything–our jobs, our loved ones, our material possessions–then what is left behind?
Only our character. Who we are really behind all the masks, the social constructs, the rumors and the legends.
So who are we really? If you lost everything except your life today, what would you have left to rebuild your life upon?
If you are a person of integrity, that is, you say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you are going to do and finish what you start, then you have all you need. Because you are a person that others can trust and rely upon, then trusting people will do that. If these are the kind of kids we want to have, then these are the kind of parents we need to be.
So our primary goal is to be the kind of parents whose children look to us as David looked to God in the above passage. Obviously, we are not perfect like God, but we are created in His image, which means that we have aspects of His character woven into our DNA.
When my children are up against it, I want them to know that they can look to me for help. I want them to know that I will forgive their mistakes and give them room to grow. I want them to know that they have somewhere to turn when it seems like the world is crashing down on them. I don’t ever want to let them down. I want them to trust me to take care of them, even when they are older and don’t really need me to do that anymore.
But the only way I can be that kind of a father is to remember that I have a Father who does all of these things for me. And so do my kids. So it’s not really me I want them to trust, but God. His integrity is flawless and will go on forever. If I can point my kids to that, directly or through my own rudimentary example, then I will be giving them what they need to survive and overcome whatever comes their way.