"Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)
We live between two large area high schools, each about a half a mile in either direction from our house. I often have the opportunity to observe the young people walking by (yes, a few of them do still actually walk to and from school).
Their troubled faces trouble me just looking at them. I am not so old that I cannot recall that high school can be a tough obstacle course each and every day. And I know that youth is no panacea for all that ails a person.
Nevertheless, these young people look so confused and aimless it is haunting to me. They show no joy in their faces. There is very little joshing around as they shuffle down the sidewalks. They make little to no eye contact with one another.
For a number of years I worked in a mental health agency. One term with which I became very familiar was a "flat affect" - meaning the person had little to no facial expression of any emotion. That is what these teenagers remind me of - flat affect.
It is a sad, but stark, visual reminder of how much our youth need a relationship with God. This generation of teens has more freedom, more money, and more "license to act out" than any before. And as God's word so clearly tells us, all this humanistic freedom does not produce any real happiness.
Instead we see them "aimless and confused", wondering what to do with themselves. Granted this is not every teenager. And hopefully it does not describe those who already have committed their lives to Christ.
The witty Oscar Wilde once opined that "youth is wasted on the young" - and perhaps there is some truth to this, in that they do not seem to appreciate their strength, energy, vigor. It is all ahead of them. But many whom I see today reflect only a detached melancholy.
The broken society in which they have grown up has shown them no mercy, introducing them to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity as middle-schoolers; such that by the time they reach high school there is little they have not seen or personally experienced. They are, indeed, jaded juveniles.
Granted our generation was no shining moral role model. And in our race up the ladder of affluence and success, we have, too often, left behind a generation of young people who are disconnected from us and from God, and sometimes even from each other.
But there is hope! God yearns over them like a shepherd and is not willing that any should perish. Those of us who have escaped the fowler's snare owe it to these aimless ones, to point them to Calvary. For those who are completely confused about who or what they are, we can, with confidence share with them the clarity of who Christ is. Lord help us to do it with humility and to "be on our knees to pray for the harvest hands."
And if you are blessed to know a godly teen, please tell them today how much you appreciate them, and how proud you are of them. They could use the encouragement. It is a tough world in which they are growing up.
.... Marsha Y.