Growing up around Christians, in the church, and/or in a Christian home, you often hear mothers tell their daughters:
“I really admire Susan and how she handles her children. Her daughters are so well rounded and well behaved.”
“You know that you can’t date until you are 18, so no hanging out with boys, no friends that are boys, and definitely no hand holding with them!”
“It is important to wait until marriage. If you choose not to, it will damage what God wants for your marriage.”
I am not trying to say that these statements are wrong in any sense. I believe that these statements are trying to protect the daughters of today from the world’s pain and broken ways. I applaud mothers who want to protect their daughters. There are mothers in the world who don’t pay enough attention to their daughters, which often times leads to immense tragedy.
My thought here is, do these statements leave room for error?
Think back to those generalized statements that I made, think about the word choice and what they might mean to a 14, 15, 16, or 17 year old. Are you speaking your daughter’s language? Does she know where those words are coming from? Have you sat down with your daughter and said these things purely from a loving stance?
Something that I will never, ever forget, is how my god-mother treated me when I was going through the trenches as a teenager. She started out in anger. She was angry that I was choosing things that were positively going to bring me heart ache and pain, but she didn’t stay like this, her heart changed. My god-mother realized that I was just like any other teen. I was going to learn the hard way because I simply was not listening. She went from angry to loving, from separation to reunion. What she said has changed my way of thinking forever, “I knew you were going to make the choices that you were going to make. So I had a choice, jeopardize and ruin my relationship with my daughter or hold her hand as she walked through the storm.”.
Allow me to tell you from personal experience. When you have unconditional love during life’s hardest moments, it softens your heart, it leads you to a peaceful place, allowing you to reflect on your situation. This makes all the difference to a teenager that feels alone.
In my experiences with teenaged girls, majority of the time their fear is this:
“I can’t talk to my mom. She will just get mad at me”
“Church has always taught me to only do good things and focus on Jesus. I have so much shame I just don’t want to go to church anymore”
“If I tell my friends it will turn into gossip, I don’t have anyone to talk to. I feel like I am really alone with this”
“My future husband won’t love me; he won’t be able to look past this”
People, hold on a second. Stop. Are you hearing this?!
I know that we have all the good intentions in the world, but what do these words mean to you? Do they not shake your soul? Do they not bring you to tears?
To answer the question of where are we going wrong, it is right here.
When these girls come to me, broken and ashamed, I am brought to tears. My whole entire being wants to wrap them in my arms and share the true, unconditional, love of Christ with them.
Through an intentional relationship with these girls, I get to share how my own brokenness has brought light and joy to others.
[Here is an article by Propel that explains it in such a beautiful way]
These girls do not have to be ashamed; they do not have to be afraid.
When is someone going to stop preaching fear and start preaching unconditional?
Look at this world. Look at it’s brokenness. We can try all we want to protect, shelter and shield these young women from the hurt and pain this world has to offer, but are we paying attention to how we are protecting our daughters, our sisters, our cousins, our nieces, our step daughters? Are we just placing them in a bubble and hope nothing pops it?
These young women will be effected by this world. It is how we comfort, love and guide that resurrects them from dark moments in their life.
We need to go from afraid, denial and fear to preparedness, acceptance and unconditional.
It may not be in a life-altering, I-am-pregnant-at-14 way. It may be in a small way. It might be that their friends got caught up in this world and they have lost relationship to them, or that a boy has taken their best friend away from them.
The small to us is huge to them.
Allow me to leave you with this encouragement. There is so much beauty in brokenness. There should be no shame in our baggage, there should be pain that is turned into power, there should be turmoil that is turned into a testimony – a beautiful story how we have survived this world’s broken ways.
My hope is that we can reevaluate how we are speaking to the younger generations in our lives, how our words are effecting them and what is it exactly that we want them to know – fear or unconditional love?