My daughter and I are experiencing a big transition this year: her first year of high school. It seems like just yesterday she was in elementary school making macaroni necklaces. Now she’s solving advanced algebraic equations, getting up at 5:30 a.m. for ‘zero hour’, carrying a full load of classes, (the likes of which I didn’t encounter until college), coming home and working on homework from 3:00 - 9:00 p.m. with an occasional break to eat or check social media before falling into bed exhausted; all this only to wake up groggy the next morning and repeat it all again. And in case that weren’t enough, insert into this backdrop, the constant and unrelenting pressure to be skinny, look pretty, be smart, get good grades, take hard classes, be kind, be invited to the right parties; in short: be perfect.
All of this pressure caused a little crack in her veneer recently. I won’t go in the details
but let’s just say it was a difficult situation she found herself in. Two roads. And the one
she chose she instantly regretted. Guilt racked her, she thought she was unworthy. She
came home quite upset and confessed her ‘sin’ to me. As sad as I was for her, I was
also very proud. For I knew that this choice she made, while wrong, was easy to
understand given the constant and unrelenting pressure she feels. And the fact that she
KNEW it was wrong and that she felt bad, told me that she is, indeed, a virtuous person
of integrity. I’m not sure how many kids her age would have even thought twice about it,
much less admitted it to her parents and felt genuinely remorseful about it.
So instead of coming down on her with moralistic sermonizing, I held her. I told her we
all make mistakes, and that I was proud of her for her bravery and honesty. I reminded
her that no one is perfect, but it is the people who can admit to and learn from their
mistakes that are the good ones. I reminded her that life is a series of ‘tests’ and we
learn as we go. This was a learning opportunity, not a branding of the quality of her
personhood that will follow her the rest of her life (which of course she thought it was).
It stopped and made me think about the myriad pressures and messages our youth
today get. It’s a constant deluge of expectations from different people, never knowing
which one you should listen to. It's a struggle to find your own voice, your own internal
compass. It’s a journey.
All of this reminded me of a song by Christopher Grundy, the former associate pastor at
the church I attended when living in Lawrence. It’s called “Out on This Wire” and here
are a few excerpts:
She’s always been a nice girl, always done the best she could
she goes to church, she plays the flute,her grades are mostly good
but when the day is over, and her back’s still to the wall
she gets this sinking feeling that she’ll never please them all
‘cause her coach says “Give me all or give me nothing”
and her mother says, “You should spend more time at home,”
and her boyfriend says “You could show me that you love me alone”,
and the cover girl whispers “Shouldn’t you be thinner like me?”
and she prays….
Holy One, hold my hand as I walk out on this wire
trying to balance while juggling the knives and the fire
help me choose what I’m gonna live for
so I will find my life’s still mine and I am yours.
So maybe for today, stop for a moment and think about our youth and the incredible
pressures they face each day as they transition from children to adults. They are all
indeed “out on a wire” and they need a community that can love them,
hold them, guide them and remind them that they are precious in God’s sight. That we
will pick them up when they stumble, and will remind them that they are, indeed,