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A few weeks ago, severe storms and tornadoes ravaged Alabama. Many people lost their lives; many more lost their homes and more.
It was a story that, like the Japanese earthquake, became so up-close and transparent with the aid of technology. Because of the instant access to details, videos, and nearness of current events today, teenagers and children have the potential to be instantly exposed to the same information that adults once had to wait for once every 24 hours on the 6 o’clock news.
The news is now so easily accessible on cell phones, the Internet, television, newspapers, word of mouth, coffee shops, restaurants, billboards, and overnight magazines.
Think about this past week: We saw the culmination of years of pursuing and tracking Osama Bin Laden, which resulted in his highly publicized death. The week was filled with that news and riddled with a gamut of post-death reactions, from celebration, sadness and peace to more and anger.
Many took to the streets to celebrate, raising the American flag on the sidewalks of New York; major-league baseball games were interrupted by celebrations; families and individuals around the world cried, seeming to gain a sense of closure after losing loved ones in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or in the fight against terrorism.
There were so many different reactions, and probably will be even more questions developing.
At one of our high school breakfast groups, we discussed this topic and then discussed the right way to respond in light of following Christ. Among the tough questions we considered were: Should being a Christian call for a different response than not being a Christian? Is there a difference between revenge and justice? How can you tell?
We discussed the scriptures and their meanings, and then talked more about what everyone seemed to be shaping an opinion about.
I know these discussions are valuable to have with our kids. If we are not helping to shape and guide these ideas and worldviews, someone or something else will. As a parent, I want to be the one who influences my children; I will create opportunities to have these intentional conversations about faith and life.
Here are a few tips that may be of help to you when engaging in these difficult conversations with your kids:
Listen, listen, listen. Whether you agree or not, listen and gather the information. Their opinions and ideas are often shaped by the conversations they are having or overhearing. Listen to how they interpret what has taken place. Listen to what they are thinking and to what they are hearing. Make the time to listen –in the car, over dinner, while you’re fishing or riding bikes. Just listen.
Ask great questions. Questions make us sort through these issues and make us struggle to find answers. Ask, “Where did you hear that?” “How does that make you feel?” “Why do you think they did that or said that?” “What do you think we should do about this?”
Don’t be quick to give your own answers. Ask and listen. Find out what they are thinking about and how they are processing the event.
Be intentional with your conversations. Don’t wait for the topic to “go away” and don’t assume they “get it” or that they don’t think something is a big deal. Choose the right time to have those discussions. If you’re a parent, you’re earning the right to be heard, so speak to them.
Talk to a church member or a minister. I am not offended nor upset when a parent or friend asks for advice on a difficult topic. A lot of times, I’ll tell them, “I’m not sure, but I will find out or research it a bit.” I too, have sought out the counsel of others, especially when I’m concerned about a difficult or controversial topic.
There are a lot of resources available. Sometimes we just need the direction for which to turn to get them.
God gives the family a blueprint plan in Deuteronomy about intersecting his word and life.
Deuteronomy 6:7 – “Impress them (commandments) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
The Rev. Jay Montgomery is youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Carrollton.