My Teen, The Alien

Giger's Alien, as portrayed by Bolaji Badejo i...

From the 1979 film, Alien

Eugene Peterson says that God gives us the gift of Adolescents just at the right time, for most of us in middle age:

And then God’s gift: in the rather awkward packaging of the adolescent God brings into our lives a challenge to grow, testing our love, chastening our hope, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss.

Stop right there! Yes, yes, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss. So how in the world is that a gift?

What parent of teenagers hasn’t wondered, “Who has snatched my child into their saucer and replaced her with a alien in a human suit who doesn’t know how to act like the human I thought I was raising?”

A gift of an alien in the house? Well, there’s a humor blog specifically for moms experiencing this–it’s dedicated to this experience of having a teenage-alien in the house. It’s called “My Teen, The Alien” and written by two moms, Lynn Armitage and Maria Bailey. Here’s a quote from their greeting page:

Do you ever feel like someone came into your home overnight, snatched the joyful child you gave birth to and raised effortlessly (for the most part) for about 14 years, and then left this unrecognizable creature in her place? She’s moody, sassy and standoffish one minute, then free-spirited, loving and affectionate the next? Lynn Armitage and Maria Bailey started this blog to wrap sympathetic arms around all you mothers of teenagers who are wondering how the heck you’re going to survive today, let alone the next four to five schizophrenic years.

But don’t let my tangent on aliens cause you to miss something very important that Peterson is saying. I truly believe God has given us people going through an incredible transformative experience right before our eyes. The biggest surprise for me is that I’m growing up, too. Peterson says, and I agree, that the most significant growing up anyone does is growing up in Christ. We continue to grow into the full measure of the stature of Christ all through our lives. We should not squander, he says, this opportunity God has given us to grow in Christ along with our teens.

I’ll close this post with a sledgehammer of Peterson’s that may just break you wide open if you are struggling parent of a teenager (or two or three):

My purpose is to block any approach that reduces adolescence to a problem to be solved and insist that it is an experience to be entered into by the middle-aged as well as by the young as a means for growing up. But there is this difference: what the young are forced to go through by virtue of their biology, the middle-aged willingly embrace by virtue of their faith (or willingly refuse in their unbelief). And the “growing up” of parents is not to a mark on a measuring rod but to the “stature of the fulness of Christ.”

Growing Up With My Teenagers: The Gift of Adolescents

Cover of "Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up...

Eugene Peterson's Like Dew Your Youth: Click to View on Amazon

There’s a great book by Eugene Peterson titled Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager. When I read it, I felt like I’d won a lottery. I knew I wouldn’t win another one again, but I kept reading, hoping to win more gems of wisdom that are actually priceless to parents.

This was the book a parent of teens needed to find. Where was it through the first of the parenting adolescents years? Now that all my children are teenagers (or just about), this book could not have come into my life at a better time.

What is so good about a book originally written in 1976 and re-published at least twice in the 80s and 90s?

At a time when I had been groaning about teenagers, wishing somehow to fast forward life to “safety” into adulthood, fears of teens getting into various forms of trouble, I needed this book to come into my life as the voice of a father putting his hand on my shoulder and saying . . .

The infant is a gift of God by which we are given renewed access to the forms of childlikeness through which we receive our Lord and enter the kingdom of God. But the adolescent, though not so obviously, is no less a gift of God. As the infant is God’s gift to the young adult, so the adolescent is a gift to the middle-aged. The adolescent is “born” into our lives during our middle decades (when we are in our thirties, forties, and fifties). In these middle decades of life we are prone to stagnation and depression — the wonders of life reduce to banalities and the juices of life dry up . . .

And that, says Peterson, is when God brings the gift of adolescence into our lives through our teenagers.

It’s easy to call a baby a gift. It ain’t easy to call teenagers a gift, but that’s exactly what teenagers are. Pure energy and life flow through the veins of teenagers, however erratic their emotions and hormones may be.

At a time when life turns grey and forty-ish parents are prone to mid-life crises and sluggish metabolisms, God at the right time gives us the gift of teenagers.

But there’s much more to this–a gift for what? I’ll post on what this gift is for tomorrow.