This is the second post in a series about Walt Mueller’s book Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. The title of this post comes from a poem that a teenage girl wrote. The full line is, “Somehow I lost my mouth. Somehow you lost your ears (19).” This line is poignant and powerful. The youth of our culture feel as though they are not heard and therefore they are giving up on speaking out.
Our roles as ambassadors for Christ, Mueller argues, is to be people who listen and respond with urgent compassion. You see these people, these students, these kids, whatever you want to call them come from a unique worldview and perspective. If we are going to be able to speak into their lives we are compelled to shut our mouths and listen. We must hear them before they will hear us.
Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you actually listened to a teenager? I don’t mean,
You:”How was your day?”
You: “Great! What do you want for dinner?”
Them: “NOTHING, God! Why are you always asking me questions!!! Can’t you just leave me alone?”
Yeah, we all know this happens. Most of us have had these conversations. This is not listening. Listening is paying attention when you’re driving somewhere and they ask you to turn up the radio because they “love” this band, and you remember the band and look up the lyrics online and try to figure out what they are saying. Listening means noticing the clothes they wear and paying attention to the shows and movies they love. Listening means becoming a learner and learning all there is to your kid’s world and figuring out what they are trying to say.
It’s not easy. It’s messy.
In 1960 the family was the key influencer on teen values. In 1980 it was friends. How about today? Mueller argues it’s the media followed by friends. Where’s the church?
Well in 1960 it was fourth.
In 1980 it wasn’t on the list.
Today? Yeah right.
You see there is a group of people who are listening. They are the Chief Marketing Officers of the global conglomerates. They are listening. They are even hearing. Therefore, the youth listen.
You see it’s not something we can escape from. We must listen and hear them. Mueller provides some insight to help us hear based on Paul Tripp’s work, Age of Opporunity. In the first seven chapters of Proverbs Tripp argues that we can catch a good glimpse of this generation.
- Adolescents have “no hunger for wisdom or correction.”
- They have a tendency toward legalism. This means they follow the letter of the law as opposed the spirit of the law.
- They choose poorly when it comes to friends.
- They consistenly face to face with sexual temptation.
- They don’t live in light of eternity.
- They don’t know what they don’t know and they don’t even know what they want.
If you notice this list includes many issues that all of us face. This is not something that we don’t understand but we need to realize that our kids are people too and they are really struggling through life. A good friend of mine says that adolescence is a “time of becoming”. You see, they don’t know who they are anymore than you do!
Mueller closes his chapter this way, “The church faces a moment of unprecedented opportunity. The youth culture is calling. If we fail to listen and faithfully respond, we’re effectively telling them we don’t care or we have nothing to say (37).”
Friends, the youth culture knows that the secular world is empty. They see through all the bull. They know that this world has nothing for them, yet it offers them everything.
We must find our ears!
Could you explain the statement about students being “legalistic” in that they follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law? How does this fit with the idea of relativism that seems to run rampant when it comes to decision-making?