Imagine a missionary working overseas with an unreached people group. He or she is unfamiliar with the culture and language and working without the help of a native or translator. The only culture this missionary knows is western and Christian.
It would be foolish for the missionary to engage with the culture the same way he or she engages with the American culture. Instead, the missionary would spend time doing what mission organizations call “missiology”—learning the culture, habits, and language. Missionaries are trained in this before they do anything else.
Parents, like missionaries, are trying to reach children who live in a very different culture. While your kids live in your community and speak the same language, their culture varies drastically. A steady stream of media shapes their assumptions, attitudes, and worldviews. This creates perspectives that are often different from your own. This can cause a lot of parents to interact with their children and wonder, “How could they do that?” or “What are they thinking?”
In the middle of the contrasting views and confusion, parents are often tempted to do one of two things: Yell at their children to conform to their culture; or, simply give up. I encourage you to do neither of these things.
Jesus did not love us this way. He did not reach us with anger or apathy. What we have in the holy incarnation is the Son of God reaching us by becoming like us. He did not yell from heaven, demanding our repentance and belief. He became like us and compelled us to put our faith him. He entered our world.
If you want to reach your teenager you must learn who they are, what they are absorbing, how they think, what language they speak, what stresses them out, and what brings them joy. God knows us and loves us. This model should encourage us to know and love our kids, regardless of failures and differences. If we don’t understand our children, we end up loving a future version them instead of who they are now.
As you enter into a bit of your child’s life, you’re sending them a message: “You are loved, and I’m here to walk alongside you.”