At age 13, you’re officially a teenager. At age 16, you are able to get your full license. At age 18, you can buy porn, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. At age 21, you can drink alcohol legally. All of which are regarded as social milestones in maturity, but does that mean that you’re mature? The legal drinking age in Canada is 18, so does that mean that all of the young adults in Canada mature faster than all of the young adults in the United States? I don’t think so.
Society often equates maturity to finally reaching adulthood, legally drinking, getting wasted a few times, having sex, and dating. I know that for most followers of Christ, going through high school with those sort of expectations is quite tough. Your friends bash you for not partying with them, for not dating whoever likes you even if you don’t like them back, and for not having sex in your relationships. You’re judged for your morals and beliefs and for some reason, that makes you something of an outcast to those who choose to live their lives differently than you.
There’s always that challenging fence between popularity and sticking true to who you are — and it’s easy to get caught up in the barbed wire on each side. You want to be recognized and to be friends with the kids that everyone knows, but you don’t want to live your life according to their morals and beliefs. Your alternative is to stay on your side of the fence, untangled, but not fully known by the more popular kids. Both sides of the fence have sacrifices that you would be making, but what it really comes down to is what is most important for you.
For me, personally, high school was a battle of that fence. I was on the volleyball team for most of high school and I had a boyfriend for 3 of 4 years, which kept me with the more popular crowd (I would say). BUT, I didn’t hang out with that crowd outside of volleyball very much. I tried to hangout with a different group because I knew that aligning myself with their behaviors was going to challenge my own morals and beliefs. I didn’t want to completely disregard my worth in Christ as his daughter just for the temporary joy of being a mature member of the popular crowd.
You don’t have to follow the crowd to develop maturity. Maturity is grown through rising above those standards and developing a confidence in your identity in Christ that’s strong enough to battle through those temptations. Maturity is being so fully devoted to Christ that the temptation to fit in with the popular crowd isn’t even on your radar. It’s the desire to share the good news with those people so that they can understand the joy encompassed in living life with Christ. It’s the boldness you have within adversity and the motivation to let it be a faith-strengthener, rather than an insecurity-builder. Maturity is choosing to stay on your side of the fence in strong enough confidence to grab the hands of the people on the other side and invite them over.
Teenagers in your ministry are constantly battling this fence. How are you as the pastor/influencer of developing faith going to teach kids to live in righteous maturity? How are you going to encourage them to live a life of boldness and to step out in faith rather than in fear? Don’t be blindsided by the laughter and smiles that you so often see; there’s always going to be people within your student population that are tangled in that fence and don’t know how to get out. It’s your job to show them and lead them to a place where they know — without question — that they can find their identity in Jesus. Help them to develop an awareness of what maturity is by Christ’s standards and not the world’s. Encourage them and build them up to be ambassadors of Christ and to lead those who are dealing with the same things. Show them that maturity doesn’t come from worldly pleasures, but rather from relying solely on Christ and trusting that His ways are truly higher than our ways.