My mom always told me that nothing good happens after midnight. I originally thought it was just her justification for a fun-curtailing curfew, but looking back at my adolescence, I really don’t think anything truly good happened after midnight. However, if you get a group of high schoolers outside, around a campfire, under the stars, with something to drink...-ok, this is sounding like another 'nothing good happens' story. But, with young people, when it gets dark and it's quiet enough that they have to listen to themselves think or talk to each other, things get real.
I am constantly amazed at the impromptu conversations teenagers start when it's late and they are under the stars. In fact it’s one of the reasons I like working with high school age students: they have an intense appetite for truth and understanding (just not from their parents). Some of the most important, meaningful, genuine, perspective-altering conversations I have been apart of have been off-script, not part of a lesson plan or a formal talk, simply a collective organizing of thoughts or an outpouring of searching.
High school students are searching for their identity. The physiological and psychological process of adolescence is all about becoming an independent being (again this runs against everything parents observe in their own children). Therefore, adolescence is one of the best times for God to reach people, they are searching for themselves and He is just waiting for them to give up the search so they might be all He made them to be.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take students from Cedar Hills on a camping trip. It was an amazing experience; giving students opportunities to grow, ask questions, gain confidence, and build relationships without a program or an agenda. Real conversations, sincere questions, authentic interactions all occurred and as anticipated there were perfect opportunities to see the person and power of Jesus Christ through activities and discussions.
But not so much with the middle school students. Oh, they had fun and grew in confidence and built positive relationships, but they didn’t bring up deep conversations on their own - they were too busy laughing about scary babies, or something else I never quite figured out. At first it frustrated me - my plan of not having a plan had seemingly backfired on me. I had been looking forward to insightful discussions which got to the heart of life, existence and purpose but the early age teens were too busy giggling and eating for it to happen often.
I think we need both approaches. We need to have a searching heart, seeking truth and understanding with our mind. However, we also need to take time to just be what we are, and worry less about what we are being molded into and focus more on the One doing the molding. I love the critical questions of upper age teens but more and more I am coming to appreciate the early teen vestiges of child-like faith, no need to worry all that matters is to be. I love the oft repeated saying, “we don’t always know what our life holds, but we know who holds our life.” I hope we can all ask, seek and knock, but at the same time maintain a simple sincere faith. So there are some lessons from teenagers, you might as well glean it from them now, while they still know it all - possibly around a campfire after midnight... Oh yeah, nothing good happens after midnight.