Friday, March 8, 2013

Encouraging the Youth of America

One thing I’ve learned in my short life is just how much other people enjoy trying to run your life for you. Examples:
When you’re dating someone, they ask why you aren’t married yet.
When you’re married to someone, they ask why you don’t have kids yet.
When you have your first kid, they ask when you are planning to have another one.
Graduating from high school…where are you going to college?
Graduating from college…when are you going to start on your second degree?
You should work _____. You should do _____ with your career.
_____is not a good idea…you should do ____ instead.

American society is never short on opinions for what others should be doing with their lives.

I was reminded of this fact yesterday afternoon. I was walking outside my building and ran into one of my old co-workers. We said our “hello’s” and “how are you doing’s” and without skipping a beat she asked me how school was going. “Well you know I graduated last May with my Bachelor’s….” The look on her face was immediate disappointment. “Sarah. You have got to keep going with your education. Why are you not enrolled in a Master’s program? You’ll never get anywhere in your career without a higher degree” she said in a very stern tone. I calmly explained that I was taking a break and that I was going to work on some training through my employer….but I can tell you, it took all I had in me to keep smiling and acting friendly through the rest of the conversation. Especially when she ended the conversation by reminding me that once I finished my training I needed to start working on my Master’s degree. Really??!?!?
Now if this had been my mom, or Roman, or my Pastor, or someone who knew me very well….that’s one thing. They know me and they know the call that God has for my life. But this woman barely knows me and doesn’t know anything about the goals and aspirations I have in my life….and I’m not sure she’s a Christian so she probably isn’t even thinking about what God wants for my life. And that’s the real problem.
I worry that the American society (this includes the Church of America as well) places too many expectations on our youth. We expect the youth of America to have it all figured out: where we’re going to go to college, where we want to work after we graduate, when/who we want to marry, how many kids we are going to have, where we want to live, and the list goes on and on. But we don’t stop there….not only do we expect them to know the answers to all of these questions, we also expect them to maintain a certain status in their answers. Heaven forbid one of them answer your question by stating they want to be a factory worker after they graduate high school. Oh no. That is not. good. enough. You need to aspire to be a banker or a CEO or an actor or a doctor…just do SOMETHING that will make you a respectable member of society.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to encourage our youth to dream big dreams, but it is 100% wrong to ignore their hopes and dreams and press them to be someone they’re not….or rush them into making decisions when they’re not ready. Go ahead and ask the questions like “where are you going to go to college?” Just don’t act disappointed when they tell you that they haven’t decided yet, or that they’ve decided college isn’t for them and they would rather just start working instead. Trust me, I’m sure they’ve talked with their parents over this decision and they don’t need a half-stranger giving them advice on their life decisions….they get enough of that from everyone else.
Perhaps I’m being a little too mean about all of this, and if so then I apologize. I just feel like our youth has enough to worry about…they go through so much. Between trying to figure out who they really are and who God is and what He wants from them….and then dealing with difficult social situations that are much more varied than what older generations have dealt with, I think they have enough on their minds.
So rather than be a discouragement to our youth, be an encourager instead. Listen to them talk about their hopes and dreams and then encourage them to chase after them. After all, God gives us big dreams for a reason....and sometimes those dreams don't include a college degree or a high-paying job. Don’t look down on them if they are making a decision that is not “socially acceptable” in your eyes. I think we have enough cookie-cutter adults chasing after the great “American Dream”. What this country needs is a generation that is unafraid to seek after God’s heart for their lives. And most importantly: PRAY that our young people are willing and seeking to follow God’s call for their lives. Ask that God give them a soft heart and a burning passion to see His glory on earth. Because if they are running heard after God’s heart, then they’ll make the right life choices….no matter how crazy those life choices may sound to us.

And for heaven’s sake….please don’t ask me when I’m going for my Master’s degree. Because I can assure you, unless God specifically (and I mean specifically) tells me to go back to school, I’m not. EVER. #hatedcollege    ;)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  ~Jeremiah 29:11

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