We have come to the next transition point in the journey; though, perhaps, I should call it a “mini-transition” because the second decade has not yet come to an end.
In American cultural experience, a teenager finishes secondary school around age 18. The last two years of this decade are usually spent in any number of ways: studying in institutions of higher education such as community college or university, entering vocational training programs, joining the military service or getting a regular job to earn enough money to live on their own. Though times they are a changin’ (as that old song goes), when I was 18 kids left home to pursue independent lives. If they did not have enough money to actually support themselves while studying, they elected to live at home to use what money their part-time jobs brought in for tuition and books. Even so, there was always that search for just how to move out and live independently of parents as soon as possible. Today, the kids are not as anxious to assume total financial responsibility for their lives and don’t mind staying dependent on Mom and Dad for a lot more years than we did. Not sure why that is but probably lots of reasons.
What is important, from the point of the study of our sojourn to understand God, is that this time in the life of a young adult is crucial to his or her spiritual development. It is the time questions arise about everything we have ever been taught by our parents or the adults in our lives. It is the time we want to find the truth for ourselves and make our own decisions. We are “grown up” now and have a right to decide for ourselves, don’t we? For years kids have heard their parents warn them to do this or don’t do that for “as long as your feet are sitting under my table” but, now, we have our own table and can make our own rules of conduct for our home. We are experimenting with what seems best to us. Fortunately, many of those “good rules” are retained but the grey areas are where the real struggle comes in because society is changing as to what the majority believes is good.
There are a lot of folks out there in academia who want to help the young newbie embrace the professor’s way of thinking. Many universities have quite liberal-thinking faculty members whose door is always open to students seeking views and ammunition with which to counter their upbringing at the hands of their conservative parents. Likewise, campuses all over America have organizations of Christian university students who are busily crusading to add members to their growing ranks of new Believers.
The 18-year-old first-year student, formerly called Frosh or Freshman, is being approached and “wooed” from both sides. If he has no solid convictions when he begins tertiary education, he will be like a piece of driftwood in a hurricane, tossed and twisted until he is unable to really sort it out before rescued from the storm. Many kids start university studies with a “working knowledge” of Christianity but not really a personal relationship with God. Kind of like the person who goes to church on Christmas and Easter knows the basics of Christianity but would be hard pressed to find the location of a Scripture verse called out from the pulpit. They are Christian in their moral beliefs but it doesn’t much affect their daily lives. These students are ripe for the picking of seriously liberal theologians in the Religious Studies Department. We must not be deceived when our teen tells us he is taking a class in the Religious Studies building; it is not necessarily a good thing. If he does not firmly believe those things he has been taught, the course may, actually, undo all that you and your church leadership have taught your child since early Sunday School days! He’s deciding these things for himself now, remember?
My own sojourn took me down the academic road for these final two years of the Tween/Teen Decade so it is from that vantage point I have experience to share. Many of you may have taken another road and I would love to hear your story. Feel free to email me, if you would rather not expound on your late teen years in the blog.
****The Final Two Years: Freshman … Coming Tomorrow (unless it rains too much)