By modern standards, Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not have the easiest set of circumstances. By Biblical standards, her unexpected news must have left her family overwhelmed, heartbroken, and hurt. Could she have been termed an at-risk teen?
She was probably 14-years-old when she realized she was pregnant. Now anyone who has ever been 14, parented a young teen, or interacted with one knows that there is a strong birth of independence and autonomy that comes shining through about this time. There is a need to be grown up and prove it – to themselves, their friends, and those who love them. This is good. This is how God designed us – otherwise, how would we ever leave and cleave?
But for most 14-year-old girls, especially ones raised in a faith-filled home, how does this fight for independence and autonomy show itself? How do parents who have sometimes fought tooth and nail to get their child safely into their home – start to loosen the apron strings without feeling like they’re letting their precious blessing free fall into the culture- into the world?
Typical or At-Risk Teen
Well, Mary, I believe, was a typical teen, if perhaps untypically attuned to Father God’s voice. Maybe she heard the heavenly message because it popped up in her face in the form of an angel. Come to think of it – in this season of our unexpected news- I think I’d welcome an angel popping up and telling me exactly what was coming! I’d like to hear that it’s all going to be ok and that “The Lord is with Thee.” (I’m assuming my angel would still speak more like the King James’ Version of the Bible than The Message version – but I digress.)
Mary had her ideas, hopes, and dreams. She was planning a wedding to her beloved. Like most typically-developing teens, she was considering the future. I say typically because this stage of life can be different for kiddos who have experienced trauma. Mary was not immune to stress and trauma, and I have no Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score on her; however, I imagine that her biggest challenges came during the pregnancy. She had to hold her head high and know that God was blessing her, even as her neighbors, siblings, and possibly parents shook their heads in worry, or sadness, or even disgust.
A Hope and A Future
Kids who have faced hard stuff have a hard time dreaming and envisioning “a hope and a future” for themselves. They will want their freedom, but they may not have a clear idea of where they want to go. So how do parents of at-risk teens manage this tension? How do families of littles who have already felt loss help them grow into teens who lean into Jesus instead of running away? In what way can we help our children to claim God’s Story for their lives as their own? How do we help heal the hurts that have wounded young hearts? How do we help them navigate their way into healthy adulthood? We’re not all Mary. Well, I’m certainly not.
Remind and Remember
My usual response is ugly crying and then hitting my knees. I’m trying to flip that, or even better, I’m attempting to hit the floor, pray, and then cue the waterworks. Sometimes I do this well. Sometimes I don’t. I have to remind myself that I can’t see the entire tapestry of our family story – but God can. To remember that the dark threads that sometimes seem to dominate the pattern may be underlining the ways that God has shown up is showing up, and will continue to show up for those who love him. I have to remember that Romans 8:28 is still relevant today and is still relevant for me. Lastly, I have to know deep in my soul that these prayed-for children – whom I love wholeheartedly – are truly God’s kids on loan to me. He loves them even more than we do.
So, as I work through all my big feelings with the Holy Spirit, I find that I can truly resonate with Mary. I, possibly like you, was a child at risk. I like you may be raising a child who will walk through hard times. Yet, finally, I can join Mary in saying, “May it be done to me according to your word”. Then and only then can I be still and know that He is God. I am His – And so are they.