Dear Young Person…

I know you have grown up and heard a lot of stories about the mistakes your parents made.  The things they did probably make you roll your eyes or maybe you’re one of the kids who hears about the drugs, the parties, the drag races through town, and you think, “You turned out ok.   You had fun and now look at you– talk about boring!  Man, why do people think it’s so bad to try some of this stuff when you’re just going to grow up to be the same as every other parent on the planet?

Let me give you a reality check.  Most of our friends and companions that did the stupid things they did are not the law-abiding staid people that reside in your living rooms today.  Many are in jail or have spent time there, some are still trying to relive their ‘glory days’ as the wild hip dudes and dudettes they used to be and looking just as ridiculous now as they did back then.  All of us were scarred deeply by our foolish and often immoral choices.  Sin is sin.  Sometimes it leaves marks on our bodies or on our health, other times no one but us and the Lord can see the hideous scars that criss-cross our souls.

That tattoo that seemed so cool– oh the satisfaction of annoying dad when we walked into the door with a buxom blonde on our arm or rose on the back of our shoulder.  Now it’s faded, embarrassing, and terrifies small children when we walk into church.    We gained and lost weight and now it’s stretched and wrinkled beyond measure.  The piercings we thought we had to have are empty now– we have nothing but the scars from the holes to remind us of how strongly we wanted to make our mark on the world… and our bodies.

Getting high was great until we got caught, got addicted, and ended up criminals to feed the habit.  Most of the people we knew that did those things are still struggling through life or worse, successful and still enslaved to the stuff.  Few of the people we hung out with were there for us when we needed them most.  They were strung-out or dealing with their own problems.

You think your parents are so out of date.  You roll your eyes (inwardly if not openly) at the restrictive attitudes that you see in us, or worse, you’re condescending and treat us like simpletons who can’t possibly understand the “complex new world” that you’ve entered.

Think again.  Do you truly think we haven’t been there?  Do you truly think you’re the first generation to have new temptations, new ideals, and do you truly think that you’re the only ones who thought that they’d change the world with their brilliance?  Think again.  It’s a generational thing.  Let me give you something else to roll your eyes at.  Come on, I’m trying to make it easy to sit there in your smug superiority.  Read the words.  Really think about them.  They’re profound, even if they are sung by out of date country dudes.

Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair,
Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte’s on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob’ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack’s in lab research,
And Peggy plays the organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
Oh, we all thought we’d change the world with our great words and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of ’57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy’s on an insane ward, Mary’s on welfare.
Charlotte took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie’s wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of ’57 had its dreams.
Oh, the class of ’57 had its dreams.

It works for any year.  ’27, ’37, ’47, ’57, ’67, ’77, and even *gasp* ’87 (my year)… ’97, ’07… ’17…  Reread those choruses.  They’re deep for all their simplicity.

All these “mature” (I’ll try not to be rude and laugh at that) decisions you think you want to make… smoking, drinking, piercing, tattoos, filling your minds with books, music, and movies that will leave their imprint on your personality– your soul… aren’t so brilliant ten years down the road when you’re stuck with “Heather’s” name on your arm… and you’re married to Caitlin.  It’s not so much fun when your health and life insurance premiums are double what the next guy’s are because you thought you looked cool proving your independence with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.  Those holes the size of a penny in your ear were a real fashion statement– until the job you wanted most didn’t allow jewelry and you had to let them go.  Now they make great toys for your kids and every time you look in the mirror, you wonder… “why did that seem so cool?”

The fact is, all these kinds of things… few people are thrilled with the decisions they made trying to show their independence and maturity.  They work so hard to be “individual”…  and end up making the same mistakes as everyone else.

There’s a brilliant line in the movie People Will Talk… “Oh, the frightening things that people do when they’re afraid to be afraid.”  A similar one could be said for people trying to prove something to the world.

I’m not saying that everyone who has a tattoo, is pierced in places that makes others cringe, or chooses something different than what they think others might want them to are going to regret it.  That’s just not true.  What is true, however, is that once done, it’s usually unable to be undone.  The WHY of things really get to the heart of it.  Why did your dad get that tattoo of a Barbie doll-like woman on his chest?  Was it because it had deep meaning for him?  Seriously?  I know a family who all got tattoos in memory of their mother.  I get that.  It’s not what I’d do, but I totally understand it.  There was purpose and thought in it.  It wasn’t done in REBELLION or to prove anything to anyone.

Can the same thing be said about those cigarettes that you bought last night?  You think you’re so cool.  I know your mom smokes them.  I also know she’s wanted to quit for the last 25 years.  I know few smokers who are GLAD they started the habit.  You had a choice to make a different decision– to learn from mom what she wishes she’d have understood and could do over.  Instead, you use her choice– one she made no older than you– as license to rub her face in her past with your brilliant, “Well, you do it and you think you’re so godly.”

Is that really what you want to say to Jesus on Judgment Day?  “Well, Mom was rebellious and she’s here.”

Don’t you get it?  It’s not about the holes in your ears, the studs in your nose and lips, the gang symbols on your arms, or the legal or illegal addictive stimulants in your purse/pocket.  It’s about the rebellion in your heart.  Those “out of date” adults… they get it.  They know that rebellion.  They know it better than you do– for now.  They’re trying to help you avoid it.  They love you.  Do you hear that?  They love you.  They don’t cry and rail at you for the things you do because they think it’s ugly (not deep down) they weep because they know the root of it and it terrifies them.  Rebellion is an ugly, frightening thing.

Wake up.  You’re not as cool as you think you are.  You’re just another sinner like the old man with dentures and more wrinkles than last week’s laundry.  You’re just a sinner like the little girl in the smocked dress with sparkling eyes and pig tails.  You’re just a sinner like the preacher standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning.  You’re just a sinner… like your parents.  Like me.

Some people will read this and scratch their heads.  After all, I never pierced anything but the tiny holes in my ears, never had a tattoo, didn’t spike any part of my body, never smoke, never did drugs, and never got drunk.  How can I possibly know what I’m talking about.

I’ve seen it, people.  I may not have done THOSE things… but I’ve done plenty of other wrong things when I allowed rebellion to take root in my heart.  Do I believe that tunnel jewelry is a sin?  Not in and of itself, no.  I also don’t think it’s wise.  After a time, your body can’t recover.  It’s permanent.  Do you really want to be 80 with holes the size of nickels in your ears?  Be honest with yourself.

It’s about rebellion and it starts in the heart.  When you go to make a decision, whether it’s about what you study in school, what shirt you buy at the store, that tattoo on your neck, what music you add to your ipod, or the movie ticket you’re about to buy… look deep into your heart.  Why do you want it?  Is it because you’ve thought it out, made the decision, and know that you can support that decision with scripture.  Do you know there’s no rebellion in your spirit?  Could you truthfully defend your decision to Jesus?

One more thing.  Just because you CAN… doesn’t mean you should.  Ok, so you know that song is 100% ok.  You know that you are fine with it.  You’d add it to Jesus’ ipod tomorrow.  Wouldn’t think twice.  There’s no lying to yourself, you are completely honest with yourself and others.  Ok?  I get that.  We’re on the same page.  The song is totally innocuous.  And it breaks your mother’s heart to know you’ve got it on there.  Let me ask you something.  Is that song so important that you can’t let it go to soothe her spirit?  I’m not talking about every single thing in the world that your parents might disagree with you on.  You won’t be able to go through life without them at least QUESTIONING a decision now and then.  It’s not possible.  I get that.  My question is, she knows about this one, it’s killing her, regardless of whether or not she’s being reasonable or even pleasant, can you defer to your mom as someone worthy of respect and honor and give her this one?

Let me let you in on a secret.  If you can’t… don’t be surprised when they day comes and your kid is breaking your heart and you hear, “It’s just a movie and you’re making a federal case out of it.  It’s not sin.  You don’t have the right…”  You’ve heard it all.. probably last Thursday night.

Caveat:  No, I don’t think every kid out there is evil.  No, my kids are not breaking my heart with their choices.  I’m not even writing this for my kids.  I doubt they’ll ever read it.  This is NOT about actions (such as smoking, watching a movie, getting a tattoo… those are examples), it’s about the heart.  However, I see the grief that teen and adult kids are putting their parents through– often under the argument that “you did it”– and it’s killing me.  If it doesn’t apply to you, don’t get all bent out of shape.  I didn’t write it for you.  If it DOES apply to you, then I don’t care if you get bent out of shape.  Go to the Word.  Read it.  Compare it with your heart.


9 thoughts on “Dear Young Person…

  1. The other day someone asked me if I’d like to be 19 again. I said that I wouldn’t dare give up all the things I’ve learned in the last 14 years to be 19!! Would I like to get some “do overs”? YES. But would I make the right decisions without the insight I’ve gained as an adult? Unfortunately, probably not. Because at age 19, I knew everything and was absolutely in rebellion against God (despite Him so graciously saving my soul at age 8.)

  2. Oh I emailed this to my dh, he can so relate!
    Im sure maybe you have noticed his arms are covered in tattoo’s and not”bad” ones, his children’s names, my name, ect ect BUT….
    He never knew that he would want to move his family to serve in Gautemala, he never knew he would be going there with his son to serve this summer and you know what he HAS to wear long shirts the whole time because of his choice. In Guatemlala it means you have been in prison….Oy the choices we make.

    • You know what, I haven’t seen your husband’s picture that I can remember… and if I have, I didn’t notice tattoos. However, some of my dearest friends have them. I’m just tired of “mom and dad did it and they’re godly” as the excuse for why it’s ok to do it… the anger… the ugliness in their oh so thinly veiled insults at their parents… that’s why I wrote it.

  3. Thanks for writing this — I hope you don’t mind, but I suggested to all my teen friends (and even my adult friends) that they read this. It’s true, what we decided to do as teens and young adults was often a decision made in rebellion and oh, how maturity can shine a light on that rebellion. I know I’m not seeing the teen and young adulthood rebellion many of my classmates are going through, but give me time I still might as my boys aren’t quite there yet.

  4. OH, I wanted to add — I can somewhat relate to the teen rebellion thing as my stepdaughter walked/is walking this path; unfortunately, we weren’t the primary adult influences in her life during her tween and teen years. I just pray one day she will understand that the time we had her we weren’t picking on her but were trying to help her not face some of the heartache I’m sure is to come in the future.

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