By now, I’m sure you have all heard something about a series that aired on Netflix earlier this year called “13 Reasons Why.” The premise of the show is that of the suicide death of a teen girl and the tapes she left behind explaining the reasons for her decision to take her own life. It has attracted great attention – most of it alarmed! And fearful that it promotes and glamourises suicide. It is terribly confronting, very graphic, offensive, violent, disturbing, punctuated with vulgar language, horribly depressing, will probably cost you a night sleep – and I can’t recommend it highly enough to parents. Now, before you think I’ve completely lost my mind and question my viewing choices, I want to tell you that this is a conversation long overdue. Whether you decide to let your teenagers watch it or not is entirely up to you (they probably already have) but this is a rare and profound insight into our teenagers’ world. It is not the same as when we were in school. The internet, mobile phones, social media, the general decline in morality and increasing brokenness in families have produced an explosive combination. A world without God is a dark place indeed, and this is where our children live. The difference between private, Christian school and public is negligible. And they don’t leave it at the school gate – it usually comes home with them in their pockets. It is easy to forget all about the angst and paranoia that are the domain of the teenage brain. Science has now given us tremendous insight into how the brain works and what the consequences of a rapidly developing brain does to a teen. Even ‘good’ kids have ‘brain snaps’ that can result in catastrophic behaviour. They feel that everyone is watching them and talking about them. Their bodies are doing weird things, as are their emotions. There is a desperate search for belonging, for meaning and purpose. The answers to those questions become even more elusive if that teen is facing instability or disruption in their family unit. And, quite frankly, the world they are growing up in has gone a bit mad. But Jesus provides the answers to all the things our teenagers are facing. He provides hope and home, vision and value to us all. And we have to be having the kinds of conversations with our kids that allow us to daily bathe them in that truth. Because it takes more than one conversation to lay the tracks that our kids will need to travel on into their adult lives. King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 12 to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” There is something incredibly powerful about encountering God in your youth. We are never more open, nor more in need, of the sense of destiny that gets birthed in our hearts when we hear the God whisper in our youth. Underscoring the normal struggles of young people, is also the realisation that our children have a real spiritual enemy. When Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to ‘sift him as wheat’, it was a rare glimpse into the supernatural world and the supernatural battle taking place over our lives. Our kids are being sifted like wheat, and we cannot be naïve nor complacent as they do battle every single day. I want to stir our girls – that means you – to awaken from any ignorance that we may have about the lives of our kids. We have to equip them for what they face. That means Home needs to become a lot of things. It needs to be an escape. A sanctuary. Pretty challenging in our web-world. But it should be an escape from battle. Which means our homes should be places of peace. We have to work hard to create that but they shouldn’t leave one battle at school only to face another kind of war zone at home. The message at home has to be one of peace and love and joy not anger, criticism and conflict! Fill your homes with laughter and fun activity. Grow greener grass. They need their friends, but nurture their God-fearing friends and include them in your lives. Have that conversation with your kids – teach them to be discerning about the company they keep. Home should also be a place where spiritual conversations are as natural as talking about what you’re eating for dinner. Pray with your kids. Share examples of how Jesus would handle things or relevant truth that He taught. Show them that the Word has power to speak into their reality. Talk about their destiny. Encourage them to keep pursuing the kingdom first (this preaches louder if you’re making those choices). Make sure your kids are talking to the Holy Spirit. He empowers them to do things we cannot do. He can be in places we cannot be. He has wisdom where we do not. Encourage them to plug into a discipleship relationship with a youth leader. They are not there to do your job but they will be powerful allies in heading your kids towards a life of loving and serving Jesus.. Watching programs like “13 Reasons Why” stirs my heart like the writer of Psalm 71:17-18: O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and gray-headed,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come. Let’s declare a few things to this generation! They need to know that Jesus has answers for today. They need to know a strength that is not of this earth! They need to know that God has a plan to prosper them, and give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). They need to know that the things of God still get us excited all these years later! Because they need to know there are at least 13 good reasons to be excited about living this life – and the one to come!