The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this year that one in four teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease. Much has been written about the importance of dealing with the problem. But at the end of the day, it's the parents and communities who will have the biggest impact on helping these young women – and young men, too.
A youth counselor who worked with troubled teens came face to face with this regularly. She often turned to the Bible for guidance and was inspired by Jesus' teaching: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3, 4).
Daily, the counselor challenged the evidence presented before her with what she understood to be the innate childlike purity given to each of us by God as our Creator. She understood God's creation to be pure and spiritual. It is established by God's law and sustained by it. She humbly prayed to understand how this loving law would counteract the pressures on young people to engage in sexual activity.
In a description of children from her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy spoke of them as "the spiritual thoughts and representatives of Life, Truth, and Love" (p. 582). This statement that children are representatives of God – Life, Truth, Love – raised the counselor's concept of children to a higher level. It inspired her to see them more as God sees them instead of thinking of them as vulnerable and separate from their Creator.
Her daily prayer along those lines resulted in her being able to work with the teenagers without judging or condemning them and to give practical direction about self-government and responsible choices. She was always grateful when they responded favorably to her efforts.
From this work, she learned that it's never too late to apply the laws of divine Love to help and heal. However difficult it may be to consider that your child might be sexually active, it's imperative to resist fear and inaction. Prayer to the one Father and Mother we all have can enable us to talk with young people in loving, supportive ways that also provide constructive guidelines for behavior. Efforts to help teenagers see themselves as spiritually empowered, rather than as motivated by material forces or peer pressure, can make a huge difference, if they are lovingly done.
Sometimes parents wrongly equate being able to talk about something as condoning it. But providing a safe home environment where ideas can be discussed without fear of reprisal can increase a young person's understanding of the physical and spiritual issues involved. Teens who feel safe in a parent's love will talk about what's happening at school and the daily challenges they face among their peers.
Jesus' example of accepting a woman taken in adultery is instructive (see John 8:1-11). Parents can decide not to be distracted by personal feelings of anger, fear, disappointment, or stigma. These concerns need not loom so large in parents' thought that they cannot love or hear their children. Maintaining the spiritual facts of being in thought will give parents the humility and patience needed to listen to their children and provide loving and corrective support. And that loving environment will also bring about communication that heals.
It's never too late to give young people strong tools for making decisions they'll ultimately feel good about. Teens who grow to love and understand their spiritual nature will find that they have the strength to make decisions that don't spring from ignorance, fear, or peer pressure. The power of divine Love is felt by all who cherish and obey God's directives. The book of Isaiah explains, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (30:21).