Tag Archives: teen

The Consequences

The 2010 Denzel Washington action-packed, based-on-true-events thriller Unstoppable* shows the devastating results of disobedience. In the movie, two yard workers need to move a half-mile long train to another siding. What should’ve been a simple job turns deadly when the men don’t follow standard railroad safety regulations. First, they don’t tie up the air brakes because they think doing so will mean unnecessary work. Second, one of the men puts the train in independent–on full throttle–and steps from the cab to pull a switch, thinking he’ll have plenty of time to climb back on. He doesn’t. The resultant chain of events causes major property damage, several injuries, and even death as others attempt to stop the runaway freight train-turned-missile (seven of its cars have toxic contents) barreling toward a string of Pennsylvania towns. All that mayhem is the result of two guys thinking they know better than those in authority over them.

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Pretty senseless, huh?

But how often might you do something similar? Maybe you disregard the speed limit because you’re late for soccer practice. Or you ignore your parents’ instructions to go straight home after school because you’d rather hang out with friends. You dismiss your science teacher’s admonition to read chapter seventeen in your textbook because you’d rather play video games. And the list goes on, with varying consequences for your disobedience–a speeding ticket, getting grounded, failing a quiz, etc.

Often, though, disobedience affects more than just the disobedient person. For instance, let’s say your chore is to care for the family dog. You’re to feed him, clean up after him, and make sure he has a full bowl of clean water at least three times a day. While you do feed him and occasionally scoop poop, the water thing seems a bit much. Sure, you give him water in the morning, but why should you have to go out right after school to give him more? That quarter inch of semi-clean liquid should do him fine until you get around to feeding him in the evening, right?

But then the dog gets sick from days of insufficient clean water, and your parents have to take him to the vet. What are the consequences then? Say the dog dies, costing your family a guardian and friend. What if the money spent on the vet bill was supposed to go elsewhere, like your soccer camp or (worse yet) your little sister’s ballet lessons, and now there’s no money to pay for those activities? Say your dad intended to replace the bald tires on his work truck, but now he can’t. What if one of the tires blows while he’s driving to work, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and hit an oncoming minivan…?

Extreme? Maybe. Or maybe not. The point is, when you choose to disobey clear instructions from your parents and others in authority over you, you create difficulties for yourself and others. Just like the two railroad workers in Unstoppable did for so many people in Pennsylvania that fateful day.

God has placed parents and other authority figures in your life for your good and the good of those around you. When you disrespect them by disobeying their rules, you disrespect God and reap the negative consequences, often bringing others down with you. However, when you honor those in authority by obeying their rules, you honor God and reap the positive consequences, often sharing those blessings with the people around you.

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*Unstoppable is rated PG-13 for language and action peril. Be sure to seek your parents’ permission before watching this movie.

 

Driving Practice: A Short Story

Treatment_and_Control_clip_image004Nauseated by the stench of Mississippi tar, I focused on the yellow lines and tried not to let the heat shimmers blind me. Cars whizzed past, and a long line of vehicles trailed mine. I gripped the steering wheel in sweaty palms, refusing to speed up.

“Look, Julie!” my older brother John hollered from the passenger seat.

Startled, I whipped my head his direction, expecting to see a log truck coming at me from a side road. All I saw was a stand of pine trees. Perfectly normal-looking pine trees.

I frowned. “What?”

“The kudzu.”

I glanced at him. He had a dumb smirk on his face. “What about it?”

“The kudzu’s growing faster than you’re going.” He cackled.

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up.”

“Julie, I know you’re new at this and all, but, going 40 in a 55’s about dumber than dirt.”

A car packed with high school kids flew by, gunning the engine and yelling rude comments about my driving abilities. I put my hand up to hide my face and came away with a glob of melting makeup. So much for my perfect look. I’d give about anything to have air-conditioning in our beat-up Chevy. “I can’t help going slow. It’s not like driving out by the house.”

“Well, you’re gonna have to go faster. You’re fixing to get us run over.”

In the rearview mirror, I saw a convertible full of bikini-clad girls about to pass us. John shrank low in the seat.

I scowled at him. “Mama shouldn’t have sent you with me to the store.”

“Hey, y’all,” he called out to the girls, obviously deciding he couldn’t ride low enough to hide. He smiled big at them while hissing at me, “Mama doesn’t really need milk. She wanted you out of the house. You’re too big a baby to hear her and Daddy arguing over the bills.”

“Liar. Mama’s watching her stories.”

“Not lying.” John looked so sanctimonious I wanted to smack him upside the head. “Bet they can’t afford for you to get your license. Insurance is too high for little girls like you.”

My eyes widened. Stinging sweat trickled into the left one. A word I shouldn’t even know rose to the tip of my tongue. “It’s your fault if they can’t. You keep wrecking our cars!”

“Probably won’t have money for church camp neither.”

Church camp. I’d been planning for months to go to church camp.

Of course, I’d been planning for weeks to get along with my brother this summer. So far it didn’t look like either one was happening.

Mama had talked to me about this summer. Said she hoped John and I could get along better now that he was at Delta State most of the time. Said it was time to stop fighting like two crawdads over a scrap of baloney. Said to give a soft answer instead of a harsh word, quoting the Proverb she’d used on us since we were little. Daddy never bothered much with Scripture, just threatened to whip our tails if we didn’t quit bickering.

I rounded a curve and spotted the run-down convenience store where Mama said to buy milk. I clenched my teeth, watching car after car come at me. How was I supposed to make a left turn in this traffic? My heart pounded. “There’s no room to turn!”

“Calm down, stupid. Wait for a break in traffic then turn.” John snorted. “Didn’t you learn anything in drivers’ ed?”

I gulped air, slowed, saw an opening, and started my turn.

A horn blasted.

I jerked the wheel left and jammed down my foot. I shut my eyes. “Oh, God, please let me make this turn, amen.”

The car slammed into the ditch. I opened my eyes. Strands of brown hair dangled from a crack in the windshield. My forehead stung. “John? You okay?”

He lit into me good. “You’re not supposed to turn into the ditch! What’d you do, hit the gas instead of the brake?”

Tears blurred my vision. “I didn’t mean to! Some idiot was laying on the horn.”

John got out, stomped around to my side, and hauled me out.

I stared at the smashed car.

images (5)“Stupid girl driver, you totaled it!”

“Pig!” I stomped my foot and instantly regretted it when my head throbbed. “You’ve totaled three cars in three years.”

John’s eyes blazed blacker than the tar on the highway, but he shut up.

A man in a Mississippi State T-shirt ambled over from the store. He stared at the car and shook his head. “It’s hotter than heckfire out here, folks. Come on in and call your daddy to carry y’all home.” He returned to the store.

John tugged my arm. Heartsick, I followed him through the dingy store to a back room.

“You can sit here, girl.” The man pointed at a filthy chair beside a littered desk. “Y’all can use that phone.” He indicated a telephone in desperate need of Lysol spray. “Ain’t long-distance?”

John shook his head.

The man left, muttering, “Girl plowed straight into the ditch. Don’t make no sense.”

Mortified, I plopped down and wept, not even worried about my mascara. God, how’d I get myself into this mess?

Pride goeth before a fall, Mama’d tell me. Daddy’d just say, that’s what you get for making fun of your brother’s wrecks, thinking it ain’t gonna happen to you.

I knew it was true.

But why didn’t you stop me from wrecking, God? I asked for help.

A rough hand patted my arm. I looked up.

“You alright?” The almost-gentle expression in John’s eyes shocked me speechless.

“You broke the windshield with your head. Might have a concussion.” He sounded like he actually cared. Was this my brother?

I sniffled. “Why are you being nice now? You were hollering something awful before.”

His ears pink, John turned away and picked up the telephone.

“What’re you doing?”

“Calling Daddy.”

“So you can tell him what a stupid girl driver I am?”

He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry I said that.”

“Yeah, right.” I hiccupped.

“I know how you feel, okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

He grunted. “You said it yourself. I wrecked three cars in three years. It’s humiliating.”

Thinking of all the times I’d been mean to him about those wrecks, I cringed. “I’m sorry, John.”

He shrugged. “It’s okay.”

He dialed our number and spoke into the receiver, “Daddy, don’t worry now. We had a little accident, but we’re okay.” He offered me a reassuring half-smile.

I smiled back at him. We really were okay. Thanks, God.

Becoming a Peacemaker

peace_smiley_round_car_magnetMost of us are well aware that flashing the peace sign around isn’t enough to rid our world of conflict. Even in Christian families, bickering and sometimes knock-down, drag-out fights occur. Look at Jacob and Joseph, two patriarchs of the Old Testament. Their families had some serious issues. Esau sold Jacob his birthright for a bowl of stew. Their parents, Isaac and Rebekah, pitted them against each in some twisted “favorites” game. Rebekah and Jacob even tricked blind, pathetic Isaac into giving the wrong kid his blessing. Their family lied to each other, cheated each other, hated each other, plotted murder against each other. Not a pretty picture.

And then there’s Jacob’s son Joseph, a kid Jacob and his wife Rachel spoiled rotten. (Clearly, Jacob didn’t learn from his own childhood that it’s not a good idea to play the “favorites” game.) In fact, Joseph turned into such a whiny, self-important, tattling brat that his brothers sold him into slavery. Talk about a dysfunctional family.

You may be thinking, “My family’s perfect compared with these guys. I’d never sell my bratty little brother into slavery. Well…not most days anyway.” But I’m sure if you think for half a second, you can pinpoint conflicts at home, probably from this very morning. Maybe some eye rolling when Mom reminded you for the fifth time to feed the dog. Maybe your sister slugged your brother for yelling at her about how long she took in the bathroom. Maybe you asked Dad if you could go to your friend’s house after church when Mom already told you “no” because you haven’t finished your homework.

I hope your family conflict isn’t to the point of murder or selling people into slavery, but I can guarantee the sin patterns are still there. Sin patterns that displease God and that make your home life much less joyful than it could be. Sin patterns that, by God’s grace and mercy, you can help break.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, right. How am I supposed to stop my family from fighting all the time? I’m a teenager!” You may not be able to stop the fighting altogether, but you can sure make things a whole lot better. Here’s how you can become a peacemaker in your home:

Think Peace: Recognize the sin in your own heart. Think through the ways you cause or perpetuate conflicts with your family…and repent. Yes, repenting means you should tell God and your family that you’re sorry for how you’ve acted in the past, but it goes beyond that. It means turning away from those sins. It means deciding that having peace in your home is more important than getting your own way all the time. It means that from here on out, you will not get mad so quickly. It means you will choose not to provoke fights. It means you will choose not to hold grudges against your family for past wrongs.

It’s not easy to change sinful habits. It’s much easier to backtalk your dad or slap your sister than to resist sin and obey God. But if you’ll ask Him, God will help you. Memorizing Scripture will help, too. Try running these verses through your mind when temptation strikes:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“Pursue peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). Oh, and don’t forget that “all men” includes your annoying little brother.

Speak Peace: Always speak the truth, but only do so in love. Sometimes you have to tell on somebody, like when your sister plans to sneak out with the neighborhood drug dealer or your brother stole Grandma’s car. You know what I mean—the big-time stuff, the dangerous stuff. If your sister leaves the water dripping in the bathroom, that’s probably neither big-time nor dangerous. Just turn the water off; don’t run tattle. Tattling is a quick way to make enemies of your brothers and sisters.

If it’s not helpful, don’t say it. Just because Dad’s chicken casserole tastes like burnt rubber bands doesn’t mean you need to tell him that. He has taste buds. He knows it’s awful. You’ll only make him feel worse by complaining. At least he cared enough to cook, right?

Never pit your parents against each other. Going to the “soft” parent when the other parent already said “no,” is a sure way to introduce conflict between your parents. And conflict between your parents is never good for you, even if you get what you want in that instance.

Use your words to heal, not hurt. Choose to say things that promote peace. Replace “But I didn’t make the mess” with “I’ll clean it up.” Instead of “You’re such an idiot,” say “I’ll help you figure it out.” Substitute “I love you” for “I hate you.”

Do Peace: Don’t ever allow yourself to be physically violent toward anyone in your family. Pounding your little brother, yanking your older sister’s hair, shoving your mother…all are sinful actions. Don’t let yourself be a person of violence, no matter what the world says.

When conflict begins and rage fills you, walk away. Go outside and run until you’re exhausted. Punch your pillow. Bite your tongue. Whatever it takes to keep conflict from escalating to violence. It’s much harder to recover peace once violence begins. Think of Joseph’s brothers. Throwing Joseph into a pit and selling him into slavery led them to years and years of guilt and sorrow. If we let it, rage will make us do more damage than we can ever undo.

Instead, do what you can to promote peace. Obey your parents. Do your homework and your chores. Keep your promises. Look for ways to help out. Seek common ground with your family. Enjoy activities together.download (1)

Basically, live the Golden Rule. Treat your family the way you want to be treated, and you won’t need to wear a peace symbol on your T-shirt. Everyone will already know you as a peacemaker.