And then I'm reminded of that when something ostensibly Christian sounds so jarring that I literally can't read/listen to it anymore. This happened this afternoon when I was driving home for lunch. On the radio, a well-known Christian counselor was giving parents advice for dealing with their rebellious teens. He made a few points that stood out to me as fundamentally counter-biblical (before I changed the station):
- It is the teenager's behavior that is rebellious. It's the ol' fruit/root problem. This counselor is indicating that a good tree can, between the ages of 13-18, bear bad fruit. Unfortunately, seeing a rebellious teenager's behavior in this way is more unhelpful than it is helpful -- it assumes that there is no WHY of bad behavior, and, therefore that there is no HOPE for good behavior during that age.
- The teenager's rebellion is temporary. This is where the counselor did try to instill hope. He cited a study (his own) that stated that rebellious years peak between 17-18, and the child will be back to "normal" by age 22. This goes completely against what I've heard (and I don't have concrete #'s right now) that kids who leave the church when they go to college are disproportionately likely to NOT return to church. In other words, the kid may mature out of mouthing off to parents and experimenting with drugs and alcohol (i.e. "rebellious behavior"), but that doesn't mean that his heart will naturally boomerang back to the Lord. It will just be a more refined expression of rebellion.
- Rebellious behavior is normal. Well, I guess if you define "normal" as "the state of fallen mankind," then rebellion is not only normal for teenagers, but for all of us. Apart from God's grace, we chafe every time Truth calls us to do something. Just because it's "normal," though, doesn't mean that God is content with the status quo ... and therefore, we shouldn't be content with the status quo either. God rebukes, disciplines and calls us back in different ways depending on our personality and our place in life, and when children are in their "rebellious" teenage years, God calls parents to be specific instruments (creatively, patiently, lovingly) of this discipline in the lives of their children. As Powlison has said, God's love is better than unconditional; He's always redeeming and transforming us from "normal" to "holy."