Q: I always thought that working with young people was my calling in life, but now I am not so sure. This new bunch-and a few individuals in particular-make me feel like just giving up and quitting. What can I do?
Editor’s note: Although the person asking this question is not a parent of a teen, because she works with teens, God’s answer to her is easy for parents to relate to and apply.
I know how hard it is to work with young people, and the burdens and frustrations you feel. They can drive you up the wall at times! But keep trying to reach them and relate to them. Try to get on their level and be one with them. If you can develop a link, a connection, then you can start getting through to them and making some real progress.
Frustration is the price you have to pay when you work with young people. That’s just the way it sometimes is; that’s just a fact of life.
Your knowledge and experience comes from years of ups and downs, successes and failures, and quite a few trying situations, whereas these teens are just starting out. Keeping that in mind will help you to have patience. Also, try not to compare this group with other teens you have worked with; some kids are slow at wanting to grow up, others are quicker. You can’t let yourself get overly frustrated about these things.
Let them break the mold
As young people grow up, they generally need more freedom to make their own choices without someone trying to fit them into a certain mold. Some people just don’t and won’t fit into the mold you try to put them into! You’ve got your mold, you’ve got your idea about how they should be or act, but you can’t expect even your children to be that way, to be just like you and totally conform to your ideals.
You may need to start changing your perspective. You may need to change the way you look at these young people, and start looking for things that you admire about them-for how well they do in spite of the pressures and difficulties they face.
Be willing to get your hands dirty
Don’t give up! Just get in there and don’t worry about getting your hands dirty. It is a bit like gardening-you can’t really be a gardener unless you are willing to get your hands dirty. Plants aren’t going to thrive or grow if all the gardener is willing to do is just watch them and water them. Sometimes plants need re-potting because their roots are getting too long and numerous for the pot they’re in, or the soil they are in needs to be changed because it has lost its nutrients or is getting moldy.
So it is with growing young people-they may need some personal attention from someone who isn’t afraid to get right in there and help them find solutions to their problems. Sometimes they get tangled up and just can’t help themselves, and they need the help of the gardener. Watch out for them like the gardener watches out for the warning signs-leaves turning yellow or getting spotted or drying up, soil getting moldy or plants drooping from insufficient water. There are shade plants, and there are sun plants; there are plants that need a lot of water, and there are others that hardly need any. There are plants that need much care and have to be misted daily. Then there are cacti that hardly need any care.
Your part is to just be a faithful, loving, caring gardener-to keep your eye on those plants and do what you can to help tend and care for them. The gardener learns what he can do, and does what he can to help the plants. And like any gardener, you can only give it your best, then you must leave the rest up to Me.
Learn to see as God sees
I overlook the faults and imperfections. I see the heart. I know the heart of each one. I have the ability to see way down into the center of the soul and see the beauty. I do not look for the imperfections; I do not look for the flesh but the spirit. I have created each soul, each spirit. Each one is of Me; each one is My work, the work of My hands. Therefore should I not know each one intimately? Should I not know the very center of each heart and every fiber of each one’s being?
But you cannot always see that inner hidden beauty. You cannot know exactly what is within another. That is what you have to take by faith. What I know by fact, what I see as fact-the beauty that I see-that you must take by faith. Granted, there may be rubble piled on top. There are imperfections and there are things that need improving. But if you look with the eyes of faith and believe, you will see beyond outward appearance, outward actions or outward speech and begin to see as I see.