I was sitting in a local Starbucks studying with a friend of mine when we overheard one of the most disturbing conversations I have ever heard in my entire life. There were four teenage girls ranging in size, attractiveness, even style. One was fairly clean-cut and preppy looking with long wavy blonde hair; another Emo looking with jet black hair and the duds to match; a third looked more like the sporty girl next door complete with pony tail and converse sneaks; and the fourth, and perhaps loudest and most vocal, was an average-looking girl with short dark hair and a cute round face. All of them no older than 15; all of them having a conversation that adults shouldn’t even have, let alone teenage girls. But there it was, in the middle of a crowded Starbucks ear-shot distance away, a conversation centered around pornography, sex, blow jobs, and lesbian encounters…with each other.
I couldn’t help but be taken aback as I listened in on what each of them were saying. But the emotions I felt weren’t ones of judgment or condemnation. Instead, I walked away from the coffee shop that day saddened by the state of the American teenage girl, heartbroken for a generation that doesn’t have a clue yet how the choices they are making today are going to affect them tomorrow. And if I knew that it would have been profitable, I would have wrapped my arms around each of those young, impressionable women, looked them in the eyes and pleaded with them, “Christ loves you, and you’re worth so much more to Him than you’re giving yourself credit for. Please. Please don’t make these choices. Make wise ones.”
But theirs is a SECRETIVE GENERATION. Secrets make up the lives of almost every teenage girl. They LOVE to keep them, share them, trade them, and create them. Television shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager monopolize on this one aspect of the teenage life: Teenage girls keep secrets. When it comes to a teenage girl and her relationships, parents are always the last ones to know anything. Whether it’s because they think their parents wouldn’t understand, or they’d get in trouble for revealing their deep, dark secret, or the amount of embarrassment caused by the revelation was too great, every teenage girl struggles with being completely open and honest with their parent. And while some will share everything with their mom or dad, a great majority will err on the side of secrecy. This fact shouldn’t surprise us, especially since we’ve been there…teenagers at one time or another, having something to admit to our parents, some action to unveil, and afraid of the gauntlet that consequentially may fall severing us from our social lives for 1 – 2 weeks. Since the beginning of time, we have been coverers of sin, hiders of secrets. Adam and Eve were (Gen 3:10). Cain was (Gen 4:8 – 10), and in the New Testament, Sapphira tried to hide her sins in front of the entire synagogue (Acts 5:7-10).
Theirs is a SEXUAL GENERATION. In an effort to be sexually ambiguous, the next generation has become just plain sexual. Clothes are inspired by the level of sexiness one can achieve. Pretty Woman was on TV the other day and as Julia Roberts strutted the boardwalk with her electric blue miniskirt, white mid-drift tank top, and mile-high patent leather boots, I couldn’t help but notice that clothes sold in stores today to our teenage girls look eerily similar. The skirts aren’t much longer than a prostitute’s hemline, a prostitute who is ACTUALLY selling her sex for profit. Begs us to question: why are we allowing our daughters to dress in such a provocative manner? But the problem doesn’t just end with the clothes on their bodies; it reaches into the relationships that they seek and the actions that they take. The CW and ABC Family, television stations geared toward the pre-teen/teenager with shows like Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars, showcase teenage girls in high school having sex with their boyfriends, keeping secrets from their parents (who are rarely in scenes making their role seem obsolete), and saving the day in an ultra mini and stilettos. The message our teenage girls are getting is that if you’re hot enough, cool enough, give out enough, you can be as cool as them. It shouldn’t shock me when I overhear conversations like the one in Starbucks; they are just mirroring what the world is telling them.
As secretive and sexual this next generation of women are being raised, from overhearing those girls, I can attest that it is also A SAD GENERATION. The girls, like the ones I met in Starbucks, are all the same. They may dress differently, run with a different crowd or have different dreams for their lives, but they all crave attention, acceptance, worth, value. These girls are finding it in being sexy, having every kind of sexual encounter imaginable (and some unimaginable), and chasing after what they think they want. When in reality, the world is using them, perpetuating more like them, and sacrificing their innocence at the altar of experience. They are living for the world, but they don’t realize that the world isn’t living.
So, how do we help this next generation of teenage girls? How can you reach your daughter if her behavior resembles that of those precious and lost girls in Starbucks? As parents, how do you get through to the children we hold so dear?
1. Talk to them! Don’t just assume that they are immune to the effects of the world.
Children are becoming exposed to adult content at a younger age than ever before. A few years ago, I counseled a girl who was introduced to drugs at the age of 5, and by 8 she was dealing. This is the world in which this generation has to live, and we must prepare them to do so successfully and not turn a blind eye to it. We do this by actively building a relationship with them, talking to them. We put the iPhones, iPads, Nooks and Kindles down, turn off the televisions, unplug ourselves from Facebook and interact with the next generation. Get to really know them and build that trust so that when a problem arises, they don’t have to reveal their secrets to a stranger, but to a trusted guide.
2. Show them the difference between acceptance and approval.
There is a big difference between acceptance and approval, but so often our world confuses the two. In their minds, if you don’t approve of their lifestyle, you’re rejecting them. And if we wish to accept them as people, we must accept their choices because their identity is wrapped up in the decisions that they make. But we must teach our children there is a difference between acceptance and approval. Although we accept them because we love and care for them, we do not approve of the actions that they may take. When your teenager admits to doing something, remind them that you are for them, you want them to be successful in life, and you accept them; but you cannot approve of the choices that they are making, because there is a difference between acceptance and approval.
3. Give them love with leadership.
No one did this better than Jesus Christ! When dealing with the woman caught in the act of adultery, first he loved her and then he led her (John 8:1 – 11). First, he loved her by rebuking her accusers and protecting her from their physical assaults, and then he led her by telling her to not continue down the path she was travelling. He didn’t excuse her sin, look past it or pretend like it didn’t exist. He protected and shielded her, forgave her, and then told her to change her life, to not make the same ungodly choices she had been making. THIS is what the next generation of women need, the older generation (mothers, fathers, church leaders, sisters in the faith, and women in the church who can disciple) who will protect and love them, then who will turn around and lead them in the way that they should go. THIS is what Titus 2 is all about.
4. Don’t give up on them.
Tenacity is key when working with your teenage daughter. You have to be more stubborn about her growth than she is about her own way. Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up!” This next generation needs us to not give up on them. We must teach them, guide them, but most importantly, we need to pray for them. We can’t afford to give up on these tasks.
A month has gone by since my encounter with those young women in Starbucks, and I still think about them, and pray for them. I pray that God, in His grace, will bring someone into their lives who cares for their souls, and who leads them to the Savior who values them. I pray that they would come to know the Lord as I do, and that they wouldn’t settle for what the world idolizes. But they have forever awoken in me a desperation to see this next generation come to realize their worth in Christ, to understand that being “sexy” and desired by every guy isn’t where they find their importance. I am awake to the need.
I pray you’re awake, too. I pray that you can begin asking yourself: how do YOU think you can reach the next generation for Christ?