A Theology from Parenting Teens

Now that I'm parenting a teen, especially one who's driving, I get my parents. I really do. Thirty years vanishes in a flash and I see myself at 16, almost 17, and I hear my dad saying to me, "Just wait: someday you may have a teenager of your own and then, then you'll understand." I understand, Dad.

Someone once said, "Isn't it amazing how, as you grow older, your parents get smarter?" Amen. Their (often unwelcome at the time) advice now rings true. Stuff like getting a good sleep, dressing warmly, driving carefully, eating right, making good decisions. It all makes so much more sense now. But that's the wisdom of time, isn't it?

I get my parents now. I also think I get God a bit better. Like teens with their parents, our (sad) default assumption when it comes to God is that God wants to ruin our fun. Like our out-of-it middle-aged parents, God doesn't really know what's best for us. We're better at running our lives. God just sets up all these dated, arbitrary rules which make no sense and cramp our style.

But what if...

What if God is like the parents we begin to understand better as we mature? What if God's ways are the best ways, meant for our good, meant for our joy and fulfillment? What if the ways of God are time-tested wisdom for a full life? What if we just can't see all of this very well right now? Maybe, like our parents, God seems smarter as we get older.

More poignantly: in the heavy lifting of parenting, I often feel sad and lonely when my teen pulls away from me (which, I know rationally, is part of his development). I can feel misunderstood when he thinks my rules and boundaries are stupid and no fun. I wish he could know my heart and how much I love him right now. I wish he could know how deeply I want him to enjoy and savor a rich, full, healthy life--now and into the future. I wish he could know all these things right now. But he doesn't...and maybe he can't. Yet.

And then it hit me, walking through the parking lot of Whole Foods the other day: could it be that God, my heavenly Father, feels the same way towards me, towards all God's children? Misunderstood, a kill-joy, out to ruin our fun, doesn't really know us, doesn't really love us. But of course, he does. And the wisdom of time, maturity, and insight may well show us that.

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