In the last year and a half we’ve seen report after report of teenagers (as well as kids not even yet in their teens) who have been bullied so badly that they took their own life. And there are many, many others who don’t take their own life, but who try to cope with their pain in other ways, like cutting themselves. It is so beyond obvious that this heartbreaking reality is unacceptable and must be stopped.
It is also beyond obvious (at least to me) that the church – that is, the church universal, meaning Christians everywhere – must be at the forefront of the fight against bullying. This can and should take many forms: standing with the bullied as advocates, speaking for them when authorities won’t listen, teaching our kids how bullying denies the image of God in the one being bullied, denies their humanity, etc.
I don’t know that we can stop bullying. (Although, if every bully who self-identifies as Christian were to stop, that would be a huge step forward.) But I hope and pray that we can give kids (adults too!) the resources they need to respond whenever someone tries to tear them down. We try to teach every person that they are a beloved child of God. That is the source of our value, our worth, our esteem. Nothing can ever change that. Beloved child of God is the core of everyone’s identity.
I think we can also help our young people by reminding them that we love them, that they are important to us, that when we look them we see hope and faith and love, that we have hopes and dreams for them. That’s why I asked my congregation to share their hopes and dreams for our confirmands last week. (This past Sunday was Confirmation Sunday. 10 young people took their vows and joined the church.) A couple responses:
-These young confirmands are the next generation of church leaders. May they continue to follow God’s teachings, to ask questions, and to love God as he loves them.
-I hope you are able to continue to share your talents and minds and hands and energy and vigor and vitality and health and brains and skills and power with the church in the future. It is guys and gals like you that bring life and praise and worshipful energy and keep us older ones remembering to stay young and keeps us to the dreams and prayers and plans God has for us all. And fun too! God bless you all!
And, as I said in my sermon last week, I asked the confirmands’ parents to share their hopes and dreams for their teenagers. Their responses are beautiful:
-When we look into the future we see our son in a career helping others. He has made that clear to us as a goal. We hope he is happy at whatever he does in life. He has a great attitude about life and cares deeply for people…..he truly has a kind heart.
-We hope our children become responsible, loving, giving, compassionate adults who would help those they they meet every day in any way they could. In being confirmed we hope they would realize someday that was the first time they stood up and accepted that they were now responsible for the relationship that they would have with God. A relationship that no matter how hard it is challenged, and it will be challenged, they will always know and feel His love and support and presence – never feeling alone.
-We hope that whatever opportunities and challenges are presented to our children that they have the strength and guidance from their parents and God to help them achieve their hopes and dreams.
-We see our daughter changing the world one person at a time with her kindness, gentleness, and optimism. We hope she is able to fulfill her dreams while still being true to herself and that she is treated with love, kindness and respect on her journey through life. Our daughter loves this church and sees it as part of her future.
-We see our Children doing what makes them happy and possibly enjoying families of their own, and raising that family with the Christian values they were raised with.
-Our dreams for our daughter are that she finds joy in giving to others and that she is comfortable with herself.
-We want our son to be happy. To be able to chase his dreams. And to help create and maintain a giving community wherever he lands.
-My easy, but sincere answer is that my dream for my son is that he will be able to use his gifts to help save the world! He is so smart. Maybe he will design an affordable engine that will help eliminate global warming. Maybe he will find a way to deliver water to drought-stricken areas. Maybe he will find a cure for Alzheimer’s, or build us a community on Mars! Most likely it will be something that I can not even imagine, but I believe that all of this, and all of the small pieces of work that will contribute to these big goals, are God’s work.
Pretty great, right? I’m thrilled we have such engaged parents.
How about you? What hopes and dreams do you have for changing the world?