Having worked with teenagers for a number of years a while back, they hold a special place in my heart. How often I witnessed their capacity to love and forgive; to persist and transform; to show me through their transparency and innocency where my thinking needed a real perk-up (and sometimes an overhaul).
Stress in the lives of teenagers appears to have increased during the pandemic due to a halt in normal activities and social isolation. When I heard a mother on the news talk about the suicide of her teenage son, I felt impelled to pray. I am convinced that our prayers can bring a healing impress not only to what we’re confronted with individually, but also to what’s going on more broadly.
One of my favorite ways to prayerfully think about young people – and all of us, for that matter – is with a description from the Psalmist in the Bible. “Vigorous and tall as growing plants,” and “graceful beauty like the pillars of a palace wall” are terms the Psalmist used to describe the children of God in “a truly happy land” (Psalms 144:12, The Living Bible).
This lovely poetic depiction is powerful. Understanding the identity of our teenagers as nurtured by God-given qualities like vigor, grace, stability, and balance is a solid foundation from which to pray.
I had attended the Christian Science Sunday School as a toddler, but circumstances interrupted my continuing. I returned at the age of 18 thinking that maybe Christian Science could help me with what seemed like very perplexing questions about life. And it did!
At the time I started going to Sunday School again, I was dealing with anxiety about social situations and feeling really out of step with my peers. I was smoking and drinking, thinking this would help. Well, it didn’t.
I will always remember that first time back to Sunday School when the very kind teacher told me with such love that I was perfect. Whoa – perfect? I hardly felt perfect. But somehow I felt as though I had come home.
As I began to study the teachings of Christian Science, I understood more of what she meant. It wasn’t about trying to make imperfect circumstances perfect. Nor did it include perfectionism where there is angst if everything doesn’t look perfect according to some human standard.
The Bible declares, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). In this spiritual creation described in the first book of the Bible, which includes not one single element of materiality, the truth of perfection is revealed with ever-unfolding vitality and an abundance of well-being.
In this spiritual creation, God created man – each of us – as “the compound idea of infinite Spirit; the spiritual image and likeness of God,” as stated in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science (p. 591). Therefore, being perfect means being the exact likeness of the one perfect God, Spirit, where no element of good is lacking, missing, lost, or irretrievable.
That this was my only permanent and true identity started to sink in and make sense. It enabled me to relinquish feelings of anxiety and alienation to a greater degree, because I understood that they weren’t from God.
I no longer felt the need to smoke and drink. Life became happier, even as it was necessary to keep striving to bring this deeper sense of perfection to all my activities.
The Amplified Bible delineates Christ Jesus’ divine standard so beautifully: “You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
What a hopeful promise for our teenagers, and for all of us to live by as we faithfully stand by each other in difficult moments.